Everything you need for hearing loss Harris Communications has you covered – at a price you can afford. www.harriscomm.com

Based in Eden Prairie, Harris Communications is a leading supplier of hearing loss solutions for people with all levels of hearing loss. The company offers thousands of hearing loss solutions that can be used as an alternative to hearing aids or as a supplement to hearing aids. These solutions, called assistive listening devices or ALDs, range in price from $75 to $300. The company also offers alerting devices that alert the hard of hearing and deaf to important household alerts including doorbells, smoke/carbon monoxide detectors, kitchen timers, phones and hazardous weather.

Harris Communications’ extensive product line includes amplified and captioned telephones, personal amplifiers, cell phone accessory amplifiers and TV listeners.  The company also offers bedside tinnitus maskers that drown out the annoying ringing in the ears that often accompanies hearing loss, preventing sufferers from getting a restful night’s sleep.

Since its founding in 1982 by Dr. Robert Harris, who lost his hearing as a result of meningitis when he was just 9 months old, Harris Communications has helped many thousands of deaf and hard-of-hearing customers enjoy their lives to the fullest by providing expert advice and a wide range of more than 2,000 assistive devices and educational resources.

“My father was a clinical psychologist who worked with deaf patients around the time that TTYs came out, which was a keyboard device with a screen that displayed text for what people were saying,” explained Harris Communications President Ray Harris, who purchased the business from his father in 2016. “It was the first time that deaf people were able to communicate over the phone line, but more companies were needed to distribute hearing products, so my dad decided to fill that void.”

The company focused on deaf customers for the first few years in business before expanding to offer help to all people with some degree of hearing loss, from mild to moderate and profound.

Ray Harris, president of Harris Communications, demonstrates the Williams Sound Pocketalker 2.0 personal amplifier. Personal amplifiers help you hear better by amplifying sounds and filtering out background noise. They can be used alone or to supplement your hearing aids. Photo by Steve Palmer

Ray, who has been with the company since 2010, has considerable interest in working with those with hearing loss and the deaf community having been born into a family where both of his parents were deaf.  “Children of deaf parents are referred to as CODAs (children of deaf adults),” he explained.  “CODAs are in unique positions. My sister and I were a bridge between my parents and the hearing world.”

Ray noted that growing up with deaf parents made it easy for him to see the challenges they experienced. “My dad wanted to do something about that when he started Harris Communications, and I wanted to pursue that, too, taking the torch and continuing his legacy,” he stated.

Harris Communications sells product solutions for hearing loss through three channels: retail, government (primarily VA hospitals and rehabilitation centers) and a nationwide dealer network. Retail sales are available in person at their Eden Prairie showroom, online at www.harriscomm.com, by mail order catalog or by phone.

According to Ray, the company provides expert advice, teaching customers about different categories of assistive technology and demonstrating to the hard of hearing that there’s a whole new world of products available which most people don’t know exists.  Harris offers free shipping and free returns in the lower 48 states to encourage people to try the products at absolutely no financial risk.

As part of their business model, Harris Communications does not sell expensive hearing aids.

“We don’t sell hearing aids and that makes our company different from others,” Ray said. “The simple reason is cost. Hearing aids typically cost up to $3,000 per ear. That doubles to $6,000 for two ears, and the average lifespan of hearing aids is about five years, so that’s as much as $12,000 per decade, which usually is not covered by insurance,” he explained. “So a lot of people simply can’t afford to get the help they need.”

Harris Communications’ philosophy is to provide products which are available at a tenth the cost of hearing aids that more affordably help people.

“And for those fortunate enough to already own hearing aids, we’ve got a variety of other products that will work together with your hearing aids, as well as extend their life,” Ray added.

Harris Communications assistive listening devices make it easier to hear in commonly difficult hearing situations.

In-ear, hand-held or body worn personal amplifiers and FM/digital systems help the hard of hearing hear better in a variety of settings, including noisy restaurants, auditorium and classroom settings, work, conversations and worship services.  They can be used with hearing aids or as an alternative to hearing aids.  They eliminate background noise and amplify desired sounds.

Amplified and captioned phones and cell phone amplifiers make it easier to hear phone conversations.  Captioned phones can be purchased for only $75 thanks to government funding, with captioning provided free of charge. Amplified phones not only amplify, they also adjust tone, which is very useful for those who have trouble hearing certain voices.

Personal TV listeners allow the hard of hearing to hear their favorite shows without disturbing family and friends. These are available in several forms, including headphones, earbuds, stethoset and portable sound boxes.

Alerting systems supplied by Harris Communications include devices for everyday alerts, like alarm clocks, doorbells, ringing phones, kitchen timers, incoming texts, baby cries and lifesaving alarms like smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and severe weather sirens.  These devices alert with flashing lights, loud audible alarms and vibration.

With nearly everyone using a cell phone, Harris has devices to alert users to incoming calls, text messages and FaceTime requests through flashing lights and/or vibrations.  These features are especially convenient for deaf customers who use FaceTime when communicating with sign language.

All of their products are designed to be easy to use, inexpensive and can help people hear better in a number of situations. They can be a great addition to hearing aids or an affordable alternative depending on individual needs, said Ray.

Demand for assistive listening devices has grown due to the rapid increase in hearing loss, according to Ray. The Hearing Health Foundation reports that hearing loss has doubled in the past 30 years in the U.S., with 48 million nationwide having some degree of hearing loss. One in three Americans age 65 or older has hearing loss and half of Americans 75 or older has hearing loss, startling numbers considering that as the U.S. population continues to age, Americans over age 65 are projected to double in the next 25 years.

Hearing loss can strike at any age, however.  In fact, the majority of people with hearing loss are still in the workforce. Sixty percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have hearing loss due to exposure to loud explosions and weapons.

“Ignoring hearing loss is never a good idea,” said Ray.  “It can really be physically exhausting for people with hearing loss.  It takes a lot of brain power to hear and concentrate on what’s being said so people can get fatigued.  Those with a higher amount of hearing loss become more withdrawn in social settings.  They sit there silently nodding when they have no idea what’s being talked about and all of this can contribute to dementia.  Studies by John Hopkins University have found that seniors who have untreated hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia.”

The correlation between hearing loss and dementia is so strong that Harris Communications has begun selling dementia living aids in addition to hearing loss products.

Harris Communications carries several types of dementia/memory loss aids and emergency alert pendants. These products include reminder devices to help memory loss sufferers keep track of the day of week and time of day, as well as take medication or attend events and meals. Alert devices also notify caretakers if a dementia sufferer has left their bed or opened a window or door. Alert pendants allow wearers to call emergency services or page a caretaker with the touch of a button.

Harris Communications President Ray Harris with some of the alerting systems they carry. Alerting systems use flashing lights, loud audible alarms and vibration to alert the hard of hearing to different alerts around the house such as the doorbell or a knock, a phone call, smoke or carbon monoxide alarm, baby cry, and more. Photo by Steve Palmer

Only a few companies sell the same kind of products as Harris Communications, but it’s the knowledgeable, courteous customer service representatives, personal experiences and extensive product training that makes Harris’ reputation stand out as a leading source to help find the best solutions for hearing loss issues, said Ray.

“We’ll walk our customers through the process of setting up or using the equipment they want with phone conversations, e-mail, text messages or video service, and our staff is also fluent in sign language to assist everyone.

“Our company is genuinely concerned about assisting those with hearing loss and our representatives aren’t paid on commission just to sell products.  We don’t manufacture our products so we are unbiased, and we only sell something that the client really needs,” Ray explained.

“I’ve witnessed people cry at the many trade shows we attend when someone tries one of our products for the first time and experiences better hearing.  It’s hard to describe the satisfaction I get recognizing I’m in a business that if people can’t hear properly I have the solutions to help change their lives,” he said.

“A blessing,” is how a Harris Communications’ customer referred to one of the company’s Williams Sound Pocketalker personal amplifier products in an online review.

“Hearing aids no longer helped my 91-year-old mother,” she wrote.  “This amplifier is amazing.  She can hear me with it only set on three!  We can actually sit and visit again, and I no longer get hoarse yelling at the top of my lungs.  It has given mom some quality of life again and has made life easier for me too.”

With all the new technology available it can be tough to keep up with all the new products on the market.  “But this is what we do, that’s the challenge we face daily and why it’s so helpful to work with us,” Ray noted.  “We take a look at everything that’s out there and find the right match that fits our customers and that reduces frustration and makes an overwhelming purchase a positive and easy experience.”

While the positive feedback from customers is rewarding, it’s being able to provide a service which really matters in someone’s life that’s important, he said.  “If you have a hearing loss, I can guarantee you we have a product that will make your life better, that you can actually afford,” Ray concluded.

Harris Communications is located at 15155 Technology Drive in Eden Prairie.  Showroom hours are Monday-Friday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. – noon. Or visit www.harriscomm.com or phone 1-877-539-7445 (voice), 952-388-2152 (video phone) or 952-300-9248 (text message).

Harris Communications is offering Senior Perspective readers a special 10 percent discount through August 1, 2017. Just use the promo code SENIOR. Offer excludes captioned phones, Williams Sound and Sennheiser products.

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ASK THE EXPERT: How can I hear phone conversations better?

Question:

I’m having a hard time hearing phone conversations. Are there any phones that work better for people with hearing loss?

Answer by Ray Harris,

President of Harris Communications, Inc.

Mainstream cellphones and landline phones don’t have enough amplification for folks with hearing loss. Fortunately there are many affordable amplified and captioned phones available to help you enjoy phone calls, regardless of your level of hearing loss. For as little as $20, these phones will help you stay connected to loved ones and avoid the isolation of hearing loss.

Before buying an amplified or captioned phone, determine how much amplification you need. If you miss a few words or strain to hear the conversation, but manage to get through it, a phone that amplifies to 30dB will suffice. If you are constantly asking people to repeat themselves, look for a phone that amplifies to 30-45dB. If you have stopped using the phone altogether because it is too difficult to hear, look for a 50dB or higher phone or a captioned phone.

If you have trouble hearing certain voices, look for a phone with tone control. And if you wear hearing aids, buy an amplified phone that is hearing aid compatible to avoid feedback. If you have limited dexterity or low vision, look for a phone with large buttons. If you have memory loss, a phone with photo speed dial can be helpful.

You are welcome to stop by our Eden Prairie showroom to try out our phones, or call us and we can help.

Amplifying Cellphone Calls

Cellphone calls are notoriously hard to hear, but who wants to give up their convenience? Luckily there are several ways to amplify your cellphone.

Amplified phones that pair to Bluetooth® cellphones such as the Clarity BT914™ ($119.95) let you make amplified calls using your cellphone service. Clarity’s BT914 pairs to up to two Bluetooth cellphones and a landline service. If you want to save money by cutting landline service, this phone will work with just your cellphone. It amplifies up to 40dB, and supports up to four additional handsets.

Another option is a Bluetooth® neckloop that works with t-coil coil equipped hearing aids, earbuds or cochlear implants. These amplify calls by 30-50dB.

Amplified Cordless

and Corded Phones

Dozens of Clarity amplified corded and cordless phones and speakerphones are available for landline service. These phones also work with VoIP services. Many phones allow you to add additional handsets. Clarity also offers inexpensive in-line phone amplifiers that amplify any corded phone up to 100 times normal volume.

Captioned Amplified Phones

Captioned phones such as Clarity’s Ensemble let you read and hear conversations using a free captioning service. The Ensemble also lets you review and save important parts of the conversation. Captioned phones are $75.

Find Out More

Harris Communications offers thousands of affordable hearing loss solutions, including amplified and captioned phones, TV amplifiers, and hand-held or in-ear personal amplifiers (PSAPs). Visit www.HarrisComm.com, call 1-888-883-5629 or visit Harris Communications at 15155 Technology Drive, Eden Prairie. Watch their video on www.srperspective.com.