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Cell Phones for the Hearing Impaired

Updated on June 24, 2018
RuthCoffee profile image

I have worked with individuals with special needs for over 20 years and acted as my mother's care giver as well.

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Finding Cell Phones for the Hearing Impaired

Cell phones can be problematic for those with a hearing impairment; with limited volume, poor seal around the ear which allows background noise to intrude, and transmissions that interfere with hearing aids. Further compounding the problem are issues that any phone presents; the lack of visual cues such as what a listener has when talking face to face and having to listen with only one ear.

On this page, you can discover how to find a good phone for those with hearing loss: the features to look for when shopping and the other devices that can make communication easier.

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What Are the Critical Features to Consider?

There are a number of features to consider when selecting a cell phone:

  • Compatibility with hearing aids if they are worn
  • Volume control or additional amplification and adjustable ringtone
  • Cell phone and earpiece design
  • Texting capabilities and related plans if voice communication is significantly limited
  • Video chat/video conferencing capabilities if sign language is used
  • Vibration alerts to avoid missed calls
  • Handsfree option, speakerphone
  • Features to reduce interference such as backlight control and induction loops

Of course, the features of the cell phone aren't the only considerations. Users can also consider:

  • Ancillary devices to enhance performance such as a VCO attachment
  • Smart technology hearing aids

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Hearing Aid Compatible Cell Phones

When a cell phone and hearing aid are in close proximity, interference can result; creating a buzzing sound that makes hearing voice on a cell phone difficult, or in some cases, virtually impossible.

However, many cell phones are designated as being compatible with hearing aids.

Both cell phones and hearing aids have an "M" (microphone) and/or a "T" (telecoil) rating. Users should compare ratings based on which setting they use for their hearing aid while on the cell phone. The higher the rating, the better the phone should work with their hearing aid.

An ideal cell phone for people who wear a hearing aid should have a rating of at least M3/T3. If the combined rating of the cell phone and the users hearing aid is 6 or better, they should get satisfactory results.

A couple of phones which would meet these criteria include the Sony Xperia XZ1 which has an M4/T4 rating and the iPhone 8 an M3/T4 rating, but of course, there are many more.

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Cell Phone Volume

Another very simple step when seeking a cell phone for the hearing impaired is to identify models that offer a volume control which increases volume adequately. The only way to really know for sure is to go to the store and try one out.

Potential buyers also need to check out the volume control to assure it's easy and convenient to operate as it may be a frequently used function.

Of course, a phone with a hands-free function or speakerphone can be very useful as well. For a person with bilateral hearing aids, it allows them to listen with both ears. On the other hand, for those without hearing aids, having headset sockets is also a plus to bring sound closer with less competing background noise via a headset. (Those with hearing aids will want a phone with T Coil and an induction coupler to cut out background noise.)

Of course, if you have wireless hearing aids you can connect to Bluetooth phones directly. So for those individuals, a phone with Bluetooth would be preferable.

Being able to adjust ringtone volume and to even select a specific ringtone can also be useful since some sounds are easier to hear than others.

For some who aren't in the market for a new cell phone, cell phone amplifiers might be considered as well.

Vibration Alert

For the deaf and many of those with hearing loss, a vibration alert is more effective and less intrusive to others than a loud ringtone. Most cell phones offer the option of using a vibration instead of a ringtone and, therefore, this should be a feature that is easy to find.

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The Text Messaging Option as an Alternative to Calling

For some individuals, using text messaging capabilities can be a great way of communicating quickly and easily. Nearly all modern cell phones offer texting capabilities and if paired with a good data service plan can be a great alternative to calling.

One often suggested phone for text messaging would be the Blackberry Classic due to its traditional keyboard and dedicated phone keys. Of course, text to speech software is also valuable for those who text a lot and there are many apps including ListNote and TextWriter that provide good options.

If texting will be the primary method of communication, learning more about text only plans may be in order as well. Find out more below.

Data Only Plans for the Deaf and Those with Profound Hearing Loss

Finding the right cell phone for an individual with a hearing impairment is only the start in some cases. Finding the right plan can be equally important, especially if the phone will be used primarily for text messaging. Several cellular providers offer data only plans that allow customers who only make use of data services such as text messaging to sign up without requiring voice services.

AT&T has their Text Accessibility Plan which offers users basic phone plans starting at $29.99/month and smartphone plans starting at $40/month. Increases in price are based upon data usage with 8GB being the top tier. Sprint has the Relay Data Plan. They offer unlimited text and picture messaging, internet, and email. These services are not available online, so users have to go into a Sprint store to learn more and sign up for the service. Verizon Wireless has messaging only plans starting at $34.99/month for basic phones, $54.99 for smartphones using 2GB of data, and then $74.99 for smartphones using 5GB of data.

T-Mobile offers unlimited text and data for as little as $20/month.

Other Considerations for Those with Hearing Aids

Using the telecoil setting on a hearing aid tends to decrease background noise and feedback. However, even the backlight on a cell phone can create problems, thus a cell phone that allows users to switch off the backlight is preferred to reduce intrusive noise.

Some manufacturers have also developed neck loops such as the Clear Sounds CLA7-V2 which can help increase the distance between the components of the cell phone and the telecoil. These neck loops can provide the convenience of hands-free operation while driving.

VCO and TTY Capabilities for a Cell Phone

A VCO (Voice Carry Over) Phone is similar to a standard amplified phone with a text screen for typed messages. A VCO phone allows the deaf or HOH person to speak directly into the handset to communicate. The call is routed through a VCO service and when the person receiving the call responds, an assistant types the message for the deaf or HOH person to read.

There are a few VCO machines that can be used with cell phones which allow easier and faster communication with these devices.

This method of calling allows those with severe hearing impairment to communicate more normally and much faster than when using a regular TTY where they have to type.

However, if typing isn't a problem, most modern phones can be set up to link with a TTY (teletypewriter). If both sender and receiver do this, then written messages can be used to communicate back and forth. Set up for this is simple by physically connecting the TTY to the phone with the cable and linking them by turning on the feature from the phone's Settings menu.

Source

Video Calling Cell Phones and Video Relay Services/Apps

Cell phones with decent video calling capabilities are of course available. Faster connections have helped by making the quality of the video more appropriate for real-time communication via sign language.

A user just needs a front facing camera on the phone (iPhones, Samsung Galaxy phones, and many others are good options) and of course, the right application helps too. Facebook Messenger, Facetime, WhatsApp, and Skype are examples.

Video relay services (VRS) are also available. With products like those offered by Convo, the user gets a split screen with a sign language interpreter on the upper half of the screen to make communication flow between the two individuals. Global VRS, Purple, Sorenson, and Communication Axess Ability Group also offer services.

Help Finding the Right Phone and Other Electronic Devices

For deaf and hard of hearing individuals finding the right device can be a little bit of a challenge. Luckily there is the Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative which can provide suggestions as to which devices are best suited to them. It covers not only the Deaf/HOH population, but also those with visual deficits, cognitive, and dexterity challenges. It can help identify not only cell phones but other electronic devices such as tablets, apps, smart TVs and more.

You can visit the GARI site here.

Hearing Aids Best Designed for Phone Use

Hearing aid manufacturers now provide smart technology which allows cell phones to directly sync with their hearing aids. This feature allows the listener to hear the transmission in both ears making it much easier to communicate with your mobile phone.

You can learn more about what smart hearing aids have to offer here.

© 2008 Ruth Coffee

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    • profile image

      didi4di 4 years ago

      It look old school though the cell phone but I guess for its use it is ok.

    • profile image

      fcinternetmarketing 4 years ago

      Very helpful lens those who need these products.

    • marvmac profile image

      marvmac 5 years ago

      Learned some new things

    • profile image

      SomniMax 5 years ago

      very informative lens.

    • profile image

      weballan 5 years ago

      This is a very good and valuable lens. Thumbs up for getting this information available for those who needs it. People need to know about it. Thank you for sharing.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      It would be nice if there was search capability that included CDMA / GSM, Flip / clam shell, etc;

      The more search criteria the better.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      very good, informative lens

    • MaxMunch06 profile image

      MaxMunch06 5 years ago

      I did!

    • mmwoodward profile image

      mmwoodward 5 years ago

      As a hearing-impaired person myself, I was quite curious when I saw this lens pop up. I'm glad I took the time to read through everything because there were some really great things that I didn't know about! I was thinking about updating my cell phone sometime soon and now I have even more to think about. Thanks!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      This seems to be an incredibly effective way to market your products. Thank you so much for providing the information for your contacts. Recently I came across your blog and read along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I do not know what to say except that I liked reading. Nice blog. Many useful information for me. I am happy to find your distinguished way of writing the post.

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    • spencerharry80 lm profile image

      spencerharry80 lm 5 years ago

      The list of smart phones is amazing & the lens is beautifully made.... Thanks dear

    • profile image

      JackThompson21 5 years ago

      Nice lens!

    • profile image

      ErnestGregorski 5 years ago

      This lens is stellar! Nice job :)

    • profile image

      elin678 5 years ago

      Great lens!

    • profile image

      DanielTorri 5 years ago

      Squidalicious lens ;)

    • Sicilian profile image

      Sicilian 5 years ago

      I am hearing impaired and also have arthritis. I have Verizon Wireless and a Samsung Intensity 3 cell phone. I find it works great with or without my hearing aids and is easy to use for texting. Call volume is good and clear. I had reception even during hurricane Sandy when most other cells were not working.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      One of the best lens I have read, what a job you have done, and so informative.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      No! There are no prepaid cell phone plans or capabilities with voice carry over or tty. Most Deaf people do not have funds for expensive contracts. Sometimes they have to choose phone or food.What about the deaf/blind, who cannot read text. And the deaf with no use of their hands. Less expensive cellular services need to become available for people with these needs.

    • TarahFlesch profile image

      TarahFlesch 5 years ago

      Very nice lens!! :)

    • carolweez profile image

      carolweez 5 years ago

      To be honest I did not know you can get special cell phone for the hearing impaired. That is so great for many people and it can be important for my father in law. He just started to lose hearing for 1 ear so I might speak to him about your lens. Thanks for sharing

    • IssacAlouf profile image

      IssacAlouf 5 years ago

      Love this :D

    • GeekGirl1 profile image

      GeekGirl1 5 years ago

      fantastic lens.

    • DearReview profile image

      DearReview 5 years ago

      Great info. Useful for my grandpa for sure!

    • profile image

      mistaben 5 years ago

      Thank you for the information. Fantastic lens =)

    • HuxleyPerceptions profile image

      HuxleyPerceptions 5 years ago

      I really love phones so anymore information I could learn would be great. You did a great job on your lens. Thank you for sharing mulberry

    • pinkrenegade lm profile image

      pinkrenegade lm 5 years ago

      Great job! Your lens is very detailed and helpful. Thanks for sharing!

    • br0k2e profile image

      br0k2e 5 years ago

      Looks good. Lots of info !

    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      An excellent resource you've put together here! Thanks for sharing! Blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • latishaalford profile image

      latishaalford 5 years ago

      Very beneficial page

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great stuff.

    • profile image

      MariannMroczkowski 5 years ago

      This lens is really great... nice job!

    • spids lm profile image

      spids lm 5 years ago

      These are great! What a fun talent to have!

    • profile image

      ValentineVittorini 5 years ago

      Nice lens :)

    • profile image

      StanfordBrendle 5 years ago

      Great lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      thanks for the useful lens

    • Mami Design profile image

      Mami Design 5 years ago

      I enjoyed this lens. I hope to read more from you soon! Blessed!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Excellent research and layout!

    • spids1 profile image

      spids1 5 years ago

      great lens love this!

    • HomeDecorKnight profile image

      HomeDecorKnight 5 years ago

      Really great info about hearing impaired. Thanks for sharing this information.

    • Spiderlily321 profile image

      Spiderlily321 5 years ago

      Great information! Thank you so much.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      What cell phone or cell phone app will actually display an incoming voice call in text/words?

    • profile image

      TradeIT 5 years ago

      Good info; an area often overlooked in an ageing population where hearing impairment will be an issue for many of us...

    • profile image

      TradeIT 5 years ago

      Good info; an area often overlooked in an ageing population where hearing impairment will be an issue for many of us...

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      iphone cannot make video calls to non-apple phone via cellular network !!

      As other phones can do video calls !!! Without need via internet. As lots of deaf are using android devices than ios...

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Once again, the hard of hearing seem to be ignored by the manufacturers. I was saddened to read that "the only way to do it [check a phone's loudness capability] is to shop and try the phone". It would be easy form anufacturers to show the output voulume for the hearing impaired, but they don't do it...

      Best wishes.

    • steph-naylor profile image

      steph-naylor 5 years ago

      Super Lens! :)

    • profile image

      sandi_x 6 years ago

      This is really great lens

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      fashionyahoo 6 years ago

      wow this is some great lens, thanks for sharing

    • profile image

      Mr-masruri 6 years ago

      good lens

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Now, if we can only get them to move their Customer Support out of India.

      Support is beyond bad these days.......

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      is the samsung galaxy 551 suitable for a hearing impaired person?

    • profile image

      gunste24 6 years ago

      @TravelingRae: If she has a friend who has a contract with a vendor like AT&T, she should try to get on as a "family" member at $10 for the additional line. Then she can buy the iPhone 4, with its noise reduction chip in it, for $99.

    • UKGhostwriter profile image

      UKGhostwriter 6 years ago

      Very informative, it's difficult getting mobile phones for people with specific needs

    • UKGhostwriter profile image

      UKGhostwriter 6 years ago

      Very informative, it's difficult getting mobile phones for people with specific needs

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      very nice post. useful

    • Millionairemomma profile image

      Millionairemomma 6 years ago

      Great lens!

    • profile image

      TravelingRae 6 years ago

      I am trying to help a friend with hearing loss find a phone that will flash/light up when she gets a call. So far, we've only found the iPhone, which is way out of her price range. :(

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I can't find any page where is listed cell phones with best vibration alert

    • profile image

      Adrijan 6 years ago

      Nice lens

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Fine! Click Here to buy Nokia Lumia 900!

    • blazingzone lm profile image

      blazingzone lm 6 years ago

      Thanks for the info. Great lens

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      @anonymous: I am looking for the same...any help out there?

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Thanks Mulberry, I learned a lot from this page and its links.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      i'm looking for a very loud cellphone without using a hearing aid, just like my amplified landline with 45dB amplification. I refuse to wear hearing aids after 40 years of misery.

    • profile image

      Mastersipep 6 years ago

      great lense :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Just stopped by again to see what's new. :)

    • SimilarSam profile image

      Sam 6 years ago from Australia

      Very helpful lens.

    • accfuller profile image

      accfuller 6 years ago

      This is a really good idea!

    • goo2eyes lm profile image

      goo2eyes lm 6 years ago

      these cell phones can really help the hearing impaired. blessings for the inventors of these and you for promoting them.

    • profile image

      rocks20100 6 years ago

      This blog post is excellent probably because of how well the subject was developed. I like some of the comments too though I would prefer we all stay on the suject in order add value to the subject! Phil Wane

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      Anniversary Gifts

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      The Tracfone SVC is also hearing aid compatible and I was looking at buying it, not to sure now, so many options.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      We bought the SVC Tracfone for my hearing impaired grandmother and it works wonderfully

    • profile image

      tkfwebs 6 years ago

      We use different IEM ( in ear monitors) for broadcast work. It's amazing the technology and how a hearing aid can help in the TV studios, video production san francisco.

    • profile image

      cr00059n 6 years ago

      Thanks for showing care. I really think this is a good written and informative article. Thanks a whole lot.

    • profile image

      luvhammers 6 years ago

      Thank you for taking the time to write this lens. I have Severe hearing loss in both ears as well as tinnitus, and you don't really 100% fit in either world, so products are not normally made for people 'in between'. Its great to know there is still technology out there to help people.

    • Countryluthier profile image

      E L Seaton 6 years ago from Virginia

      Technology is making some great steps for seniors and those with hearing impairment. Thanks for the lens.

    • RuthCoffee profile image
      Author

      Ruth Coffee 6 years ago from Zionsville, Indiana

      @anonymous: From the info I found on it, it is hearing aid compatible. M3, could be better

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      How does the Samsung Galaxy 2 S stand up for hearing aid compatibilty.

    • profile image

      northernsydney 6 years ago

      As you may know, digital devices such as cell phones and computers give off various kinds of radio frequency and electromagnetic radiation. As a result, when you hold a cell phone (or other wireless device) up to your hearing aid or cochlear implant, you often hear annoying interference. This interference is typically a buzzing, humming, or whining noise that can make understanding speech difficult, if not impossible to understand, not to mention being extremely annoying. In severe cases, interference makes your cell phone completely unusable to you when you are wearing your hearing aids.

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    • xbumper profile image

      xbumper 6 years ago

      Very good lens. I need to get this set up for my sister

    • profile image

      winderfly 6 years ago

      I like Android phone, I think now the most suitable for students

    • profile image

      markets 7 years ago

      Excellent info. Great new options for the hearing impaired people!

    • Ascent Hearing profile image

      Ascent Hearing 7 years ago

      Nice lens, very detailed!

    • profile image

      Benten101 7 years ago

      I didn't know that they made cell phones for the hearing impaired. Cool. Is there anything they didn't think of?

    • TeacherSerenia profile image

      TeacherSerenia 7 years ago

      Excellent Lens. Congrats on the purple star.

      I have lensrolled this to my Growing Up Deaf lens.

      And I just gave this lens its 100th squidlike!!!

    • UKGhostwriter profile image

      UKGhostwriter 7 years ago

      well thought of, great resource

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      Now, this is an excellent service you are providing here. To tell the truth, I hadn't even thought of it.

    • profile image

      Bhecky 7 years ago

      The Just5 cell phone should be included in the list. This is what my hearing impaired mom is using and she really can enjoy a clear and easy communication with this device. It has an amplified sound so my mom doesnât miss a call or a text message and conversing over the phone is no longer a struggle for her with this phone. More so, this comes very affordable. She only spends a very reasonable amount to enjoy great benefits such as getting a clear communication.

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      Nice lens.Thanks for sharing. strategic planning software

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      anonymous 7 years ago

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      reemasunil 7 years ago

      I think i can buy one to my grandfather.

    • juliannegentile profile image

      Julianne Gentile 7 years ago from Cleveland, Ohio, US

      Thanks for the info! Happy Holidays!

    • profile image

      emilysantos 7 years ago

      Great lens! HATIS is one type of technology I have read about. It doesn't sound though like it's precisely what you are after.

      http://www.hatishearing.com/

      I'd also try to contact a major wireless carrier, like Verizon, who would be more likely to generally cater to large groups of individuals with hearing loss (perhaps at the corporate level, etc.). IMHO contacting them via email may not be the best method to solve this problem unless you are initially inquiring about making an appointment to speak with a Verizon rep in person at a location near you who knows ESL, etc.

      I also found the following site which might be worth contacting as well-

      http://www.teltex.com/

      Regards,

      Emily

      Call Center in Philippines

    • profile image

      Gail47 7 years ago

      My dad does well as far as hearing on his cell phone, but has trouble hearing the ringtone in the first place and occasionally misses calls. He keeps his cellphone in a shirt pocket on the upper left side during the day. Now, even if he does hear the ringtone, he is so slow in getting it out of his pocket he still may miss a call or two. (he's 88).

      You have certainly provided detailed information for anyone who would like a cell phone for the hearing impaired. Great work! Spreading angel dust this morning!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      wonderful lens,great information!

    • profile image

      SaveMySystem 7 years ago

      Hey, It is really good invention. It is so advantageous for people who need hearing aid for better clarity of voice. Though there are some codes with which you can change speaker setting. But then there is high risk involvement in doing so.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Wonderful resource for people who need to find a cell phone for the hearing impaired. What a great service you have provided! Blessed!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Wonderful lens on such an important topic. *-* Blessed*-* and featured on Sprinkled with Stardust

    • profile image

      Ladyclodine 8 years ago

      It's a good thing to know that a lot of people do acknowledge deaf people. Being does not necessarily prove you're less of an individual. These products give us hope that everyone can hear. These technology that is placed behind the ear is superb and very innovative.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Years of mp3/ cellphone use has affected my hearing. its true! This site is really helpful. Tnx - Lucia (blogger for digital camera review)

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