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August 13, 2003

Consumer Watch: Cell phones and hearing aids

From: WIS, SC - Aug 13, 2003

(Columbia) August 13, 2003 - George E. Devilbiss, 88, is a hearing impaired cellphone user, "Oh, it just makes an awful buzz. You just can't believe how loud it is."

Devilbiss' frustration is shared by millions of Americans who depend on hearing aids and try to use a digital cell phone. Digital wireless phones can cause interference to hearing aids and cochlear implants because of electromagnetic energy emitted by the phone's antenna, backlight, or other components.

FCC Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy says a recent ruling requires digital wireless phone manufacturers and service providers to take steps to cut the static, "What it means for older Americans, especially older Americans with hearing loss is you don't have to give up mobility just because you get a hearing aid. You can have both."

Dana Mulvany is with Self Help for Hard of Hearing People or SHHH, "It's really important for hard of hearing people to have the same access to wireless phones as other people do. It can be a matter of life or death to be able to use a telephone."

Toni Barrient has trouble hearing, "I like to stay in touch, so I like to have that ability. I like it for emergencies when I'm driving, because I drive alone a lot. So it's really important to me that I have a cellphone."

Digital wireless phone manufacturers and service providers must make the changes over the next two-to-three years.

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