Andy Palmer: Nine deaf equipment buying tips

Posted on March 27, 2015

In my last job, I used to be involved in the selling of equipment for deaf people. Here’s what I learned!

1. Find out if you can get it for free first

If you think you might need some equipment at home to alert to the door or smoke alarm, or hear the TV, before you go online and spend your money, check to see if your local council will provide all or some of it for free.

Many councils across the UK will provide equipment after an assessment. Contacting the social care team is normally the best path to take and could save you megabucks.

Most don’t provide amplified telephones but will do TV listening equipment or alerting devices to the baby, smoke alarm or doorbell.

2. If you need an amplified phone – you’ll probably need a smoke alarm too

Most people’s first foray into the deaf equipment market is to buy an amplified telephone, and that makes sense really doesn’t it? You can’t lipread a phone.

But often overlooked is the smoke alarm. Smoke alarms generally emit high frequency sound so maybe hard to hear for people with age-related hearing loss, especially if they’re asleep. So, if you think you may need a phone – think about getting a smoke alarm too.

Your local fire brigade may fit one for free.

3. Try before you buy

For reasons I will make clear a bit further down, its best to actually use equipment for yourself and see or hear what it’s like before you buy it.

NDCS have an equipment loan scheme and the touring bus. Many local organisations have equipment to try out too. Make use of it.

This is important because something like a TV listener may work like wildfire for one deaf person but be a damp disappointment to another.

4. Learn to live with big buttons on the telephone – even if your eyesight or dexterity don’t require them.

Equipment for deaf people is a bit niche. So in order to minimise manufacturing costs, things tend to have the same look about them.

Big buttons or large sliders make it easier for people with dexterity or vision problems but can be off-putting to someone who is also interested in aesthetics.

If you want the best performing equipment in terms of volume, you may have to live with the oversize look.

5. Check the dimensions if you don’t have a lot of space

Amplified phones can be deceptively large. Online or in a catalogue, they may look normal-sized but as you watch the delivery driver strain as he carries the package to your door, you’ll wonder if you accidentally ordered a TV instead.

Of course, I jest, but if you don’t have a lot of room on the beside table or sideboard, its worth finding out.

6. Find out what your hearing aid or implant processor is capable of

The primary point here is to know if your hearing aid or processor can pick up a loop. A loop is a way of getting sound to a hearing aid and cutting out background noise.

Does it have direct connection capabilities? What do other users of your type of equipment think works best for them?

Having answers to these questions can help you find the right product.

7. Find a company you can trust

Experience counts for a lot with equipment for deaf people. There are many variables relating to types or severity of deafness, hearing aid types, cochlear implants, complexity, dexterity or if something will or won’t work with a T-switch.

An experienced advisor will know the right questions to ask to steer you towards something you hopefully won’t have to send back because it actually ends up being unsuitable.

8. Check the returns policy before you buy

Most equipment for deaf people is only available by online or mail order so be aware of the terms and conditions.

Returning a very large and unsuitable telephone by post could leave you with a large hole in the weekly budget.

In a pretty common scenario, you could buy product and wait ten days for its delivery. Then it may not be suitable for you so you send it back at your own cost and ask for a refund under a money-back guarantee.

In this case you could lose both the postage you paid initially to have it sent to you and then the cost of postage to send it back after the inconvenience of taking to the post office.

You still won’t have the product you needed and may to wait another 14 days to get some money back so it’s wise to check what will happen in the event that you don’t like the equipment or it goes wrong.

All mail order or online consumers can get the orginal cost of postage back if they cancel the order in writing within 7 days.

9. Read the instructions

A suprising amount of equipment is sent back as faulty when there is nothing actually wrong with it – but the user simply didn’t know how to make it work.

The problem gets compounded when an identical replacement is sent because that wasteful process is repeated.

If you need help setting equipment up, the company you bought it from or the manufacturer may be able to help you – always ask before you make for the Post Office again.

Andy Palmer is the hearing father of a Deaf son, and is also a child of Deaf parents. He is Managing Director of the Cambridgeshire Deaf Association, Chairman of the Peterborough and District Deaf Children’s Society and teaches sign language in primary schools. Contact him on twitter @LC_AndyP

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