What Should I Consider When Buying a Hearing Impaired Telephone?

C. Wilborn
C. Wilborn
TTY phones are available for those who can read Braille.
TTY phones are available for those who can read Braille.

When buying a hearing impaired telephone, buyers should consider both the level of hearing loss the user has, and other disabilities that could have an impact on how the phone is used. A range of phones and phone accessories are available to make using the phone easier for those with a hearing impairment.

For mild to moderate hearing loss, an amplified hearing impaired telephone may be a good choice. Most standard telephones have some degree of volume control, allowing the user to make the speaker in the handset louder, but an amplified hearing impaired telephone allows the user to adjust the volume to a much higher level. Many amplified phones also let the user adjust the ringer to be much louder, and may have a light that flashes to show when the phone is ringing. Portable amplifiers are also available, which can be moved from phone to phone as needed.

An amplified telephone might be a good choice for those with mild to moderate hearing loss.
An amplified telephone might be a good choice for those with mild to moderate hearing loss.

When buying an amplified hearing impaired telephone, consider who will be using the phone. If people other than the hearing impaired will be using the phone regularly, users may want to be able to control the volume easily. Users with hearing aids may want to look for a phone that works with a hearing aid device; many amplified phones can transmit directly to the telecoil found in some hearing aids.

Someone who's hearing impaired may use a special telephone called a teletypewriter.
Someone who's hearing impaired may use a special telephone called a teletypewriter.

People who are severely hard of hearing or completely deaf may choose to use a hearing impaired telephone called a teletypewriter telephone (TTY), or a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD). A TTY phone attaches to a normal phone jack or special computer modem and allows the user to type his or her message, which is transmitted to another TTY device. Responses are then displayed as text on a screen on the phone. This type of phone has a flashing light to let the user know that there is an incoming call.

A person experiencing mild to moderate hearing loss may benefit from an amplified telephone.
A person experiencing mild to moderate hearing loss may benefit from an amplified telephone.

Also available are relay services that allow TTY phones to be used to connect with a standard telephone. The relay service mediates between the hearing impaired telephone and the standard phone by utilizing a communication assistant that reads out the text typed by the person using the TTY phone. The communication assistant then types what is said by a speaking person to be read by the hearing impaired person via the TTY phone screen. Related audio-to-text services include voice carry over (VCO), for people who can speak but need the responses from the other person typed, and hearing carry over (HCO) for those cannot speak, but who can hear the response.

Hearing loss is one of the most common conditions affecting elderly individuals.
Hearing loss is one of the most common conditions affecting elderly individuals.

Similar to VCO is the CapTel or captioned telephone. A CapTel phone operates like a standard telephone, but provides a text screen that displays what the caller says. Unlike VCO, which provides the text of the speaker only, CapTel provides both audio and text for calls.

Consider other disabilities the person using the TTY phone may have before purchasing a phone. People who have large hands or difficulty typing might find a hearing impaired telephone with a small keyboard hard to use. Users with sight difficulties may need a large screen on which to read the text response. TTY phones are also available for those who are deaf and blind, but who can read Braille. TeleBraille phones, also called Braillephones, have Braille keys for typing and a refreshable Braille readout instead of a screen.

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    • TTY phones are available for those who can read Braille.
      By: Roman Milert
      TTY phones are available for those who can read Braille.
    • An amplified telephone might be a good choice for those with mild to moderate hearing loss.
      By: Vladimir Voronin
      An amplified telephone might be a good choice for those with mild to moderate hearing loss.
    • Someone who's hearing impaired may use a special telephone called a teletypewriter.
      Someone who's hearing impaired may use a special telephone called a teletypewriter.
    • A person experiencing mild to moderate hearing loss may benefit from an amplified telephone.
      By: slasnyi
      A person experiencing mild to moderate hearing loss may benefit from an amplified telephone.
    • Hearing loss is one of the most common conditions affecting elderly individuals.
      By: PictureArt
      Hearing loss is one of the most common conditions affecting elderly individuals.