The best hearing impaired cell phones are equipped with a full qwerty keyboard and have received a listening device rating of M3 and T3 or higher. These mobile devices may not be labeled as designed for use specifically by the deaf or hard of hearing, though they are compatible with different types of hearing aids. All cellular phones are rated on the ability or inability to work with hearing implants and amplifiers. Hearing impaired consumers may wish to ask for these ratings from retailers prior to purchasing their phones.
The deaf can utilize the instant messaging and emailing capabilities of cell phones to communicate without use of the audio features. The easiest to use hearing impaired cell phones tend to feature a full qwerty keyboard that allows users to type out messages in a similar fashion to using a computer. These keyboards may be button activated or touch screen. Button activated keyboards tend to fold out of the phone or slide from beneath the main screen. Touch screen keyboards may be slightly more difficult to use in that they rely on the static electricity generated by skin contact and are not always as accurate during typing as button keyboards.
Those individuals with moderate hearing loss who use a hearing aid can use the audio component of most commonly sold cell phones. In the US, these phones are rated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on the ability to work well with sound enhancement devices. These hearing impaired cell phones receive one rating for the way in which they work with microphones and a separate rating for compatibility with telecoil devices.
Hearing aids are equipped with specialized microphones that serve to amplify the sound signals. Some of these devices are also equipped with a component known as the telecoil. This small, circular wire can create an electric charge that is translated into sound when activated by magnetic fields. Hearing devices that put out magnetic fields in addition to sound waves can improve the quality of the sound heard by the listener using the telecoil hearing aid.
Hard of hearing listeners may wish to purchase a cell phone that has been rated high on either a microphone or telecoil testing scale. An M3 rating in the US indicates that the microphone output of the mobile device complies with FCC standards and works very well with most hearing aids. An M4 rated device has exceed those standards and works exceptionally well with listening aids. The rating of T3 for hearing impaired cell phones indicates that the cellular unit works well with telecoil equipped hearing aids in compliance with FCC standards. A T4 rating means that the device has exceeded those standards.