The rise of earpieces for cellphone-loving drivers Special

Legal or not, it's dangerous to talk or text while driving. If you must drive while using a cell phone, consider a Bluetooth-compatible system, experts say.

London - Last fall the law in Ontario was changed, making it illegal to drive on Ontario roads while using a hand-held cellphone, BlackBerry or other electronic device. Thanks to this change, the sales of hands-free cellphone systems have increased exponentially.
Many thought the new law was a pain, now they know that was just figuratively speaking. The real pain comes from constantly wearing Bluetooth headphones with ill-fitting earbuds. Depending upon the exact fit problem, the pain can be either in or behind the ear.
Tuesday evening the National Centre for Audiology at The University of Western Ontario (UWO) offered drivers a comfortable solution to the painful problem while raising money for scholarships at the London, Ontario, university. Audiology students under the direct supervision of a college registered audiologist made accurate impressions of clients' ear canals in order to have custom fitted ear pieces made.
The Starkey SoundPort Flex Bluetooth Custom EarSet is light and comfortable thanks to the custom fit...
The Starkey SoundPort Flex Bluetooth Custom EarSet is light and comfortable thanks to the custom fitted earmold.
First, a cotton block with a string attached was inserted carefully but firmly to the correct depth in the client's ear canal. This is very important. The tight-fitting cotton plug protects the ear drum from the mold-making material while taking the ear canal impression.
Assistant professor Susan Scollie, school of communication sciences and disorders, faculty of health at the UWO, says, "This is not something you should have just anyone do . . . An eardrum is incredibly thin and delicate. We don't go anywhere near it."
The clinic supplied Starkey Bluetooth units to be delivered with a custom fitted earset. Starkey, a respected hearing aid manufacturer, has successfully adapted their earmold technology to this new application. The UWO clinic had 150 units available.
Although many places are now offering custom fitted headsets, Scollie warns the impression-making procedure is potentially dangerous if done improperly. "We encourage people to seek out a registered audiologist."


Michael Bearak   Feb 23, 2010
I think using cellphones period are a distraction with or without a hands-free device. As a safety professional I can tell you that it is dangerous, no matter what! Just the general dialogue and thought involved in the conversation, having the conversation and after are all distracting to the driver.
Don't get me started on texting, IM's, e-mail, or websurfing. Cell phones were designed for emergency use, not as an extension of our social life or office.
Ken Wightman   Feb 23, 2010
I tend to agree with you. They are a distraction --- period. I don't own a cell phone.
The UWO believes that since the Bluetooth approach is legal, and many believe the Bluetooth approach is superior to the use of hands on devices, this clinic offers something of benefit to the community while raising money for scholarships.
But, I may have gotten a line on a story I am more in sync with while covering this one. Maybe in a month or two, I'll tackle the other story.
Debra Myers   Feb 23, 2010
I have to agree with Michael...but then again, I rarely drive and even more rarely use a cell phone! (If I do, I am in the passenger seat!)
Here in NY, it is also illegal to use a cell phone while driving and yet, every place you go, you see tons of people on their cells, acting as if they could care less about the law.
Even better yet is when you see a police officer with one pressed to his ear as he's driving and you know it's not an emergency call because his lights are off!
Michael Bearak   Feb 23, 2010
In North Carolina it is illegal to text, e-mail, surf the web as the driver in a moving car.
Also, my understanding is, on an U.S. military instillation you must be using a hands-free device or you will be cited. Trust me, it is not cool to get a ticket on post no matter who you are or think you might be.
Also many states will not allow a person who is in their first year as a driver to use a cell phone at all!! Good law.
Michael Squires   Feb 23, 2010
Talking on a phone and driving are considered "high level" brain tasks.
This article is like deja vu. We outlawed talking on a handset whilst driving about eight or so years ago in Australia.
The sale of hands-free systems also spiked with the new law and as more people were caught.
There is still some research being done on the amount of power the Bluetooth headset actually emits while it sits on your ear in standby mode.
Regardless of the three demerit points and a few hundred dollars fine for getting caught, half the people I see in cars are still using their handsets.
Occasionally I see the image of a familiar face in my mirror doing it. Oopps.
Alessandro Di Maio   Mar 2, 2010
In Italy is illigal to drive and talk on the cellphone. Unfortunately many people don't care about it.