Researching Telephones for Hearing Impaired Users

Hearing Impaired Phones

Telephones for hearing impaired people aren’t as hard to come by as they used to be. These days, it’s much easier (and affordable) to get your elderly or hearing-impaired friend or family member a method of contacting the outside world that works with their hearing impairment. But sometimes it can be daunting to know where to start, or what options are out there and the difference between them.

Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD) 

An older, and likely better-known device for the hearing impaired is the standard telephone to typewriter system. They’re pretty neat, and they enable those hard of hearing to talk to relatives and friends through the use of a typewriter or computer-like object. The user types in their half of the conversation, which is then sent to a relay center. The relay center operator acts as the go-between for the user and the person on the other line, reading responses and writing them out. Time consuming, perhaps, but for many years it was the No. 1 option for the hearing impaired to have (relatively) fast contact via telephone.

These systems are still in use, mostly for those that are close to 100-percent deaf.

Amplified Telephones

One of the most common newer types of telephones for hearing-impaired persons are amplified phone systems. These phones look pretty much identical to regular corded or wireless phones — albeit often with jumbo sized buttons — but they have a few neat extras to make them a useful tool for those who are hard of hearing.

Even with extensive hearing loss, amplified phones allow the user to better adjust the volume to comfortable levels. If you’re like my friend who uses a hearing aid and still can’t hear a lick of what you’re saying on her cell phone, the ability of these phones to adjust the tone and volume of the incoming voice signal is also a lifesaver. The tone control features enable you to control the frequency of your volume, which in turn assists in eliminating annoying (and painful!) feedback some people experience when talking on the phone while wearing hearing aids.

Hearing Impaired Legend

Image via The Phone Resource Center

Captioned Telephones

Captioned phones are, generally, also of the amplified variety, but with a few extra features. These phones rely on visual cues, such as a light up screen when you’re receiving an incoming call as opposed to just a ringer. Captioned telephones do just what their name implies: they caption and record your conversation, and the text pops up on your screen. The drawback of these phones is that to operate as intended, they often require a landline service (as opposed to a cell service) and a High Speed Internet connection for captioning.

Visual Alert Systems

Part of the issue with being hard of hearing doesn’t even have anything to do with the actual phone call, but with hearing the phone ring at all. I know my hearing-impaired friend is totally oblivious to the sound of a ringing phone, no matter what ringtone we set for her. For this reason, there are a number of these “visual alert systems,” which have some nice, obnoxious lights that go off when an incoming call is received. (My friend’s system blinks the lights in the room she’s in.)

Other Special Needs Phone Features

The array of available features is surprisingly huge. Phones have a variety of extras to suit anyone. Some sites sell telephones for hearing impaired that also include photos of your contacts, voice commands, and emergency wristbands for the elderly or handicapped. Many phones these days, whether they’re designed for the hearing impaired or not, also include a background noise eliminator to assist in cutting out the unnecessary sounds of an outside conversation.

Pricing of Telephones for Hearing Impaired Users

It always comes down to cost, doesn’t it? Especially if you’re elderly and working on a fixed income such as social security or disability — the $500 price tag on some of these phones can be cringe-worthy.

Fear not! You don’t have to spend several hundred dollars. Unless your hearing loss is extensive, many phones are available from local retailers such as Best Buy, Walgreens, or Walmart at much more affordable prices. These phones run as low as $40 for amplified phones, and up to around $200 for phones with answering machines and extra features.

There is no shortage of telephones for hearing impaired people. For all walks of life and all budgets, you can easily find what special needs phone will work for you at a price that also suits your wallet. One of the best sources for these devices I’ve found is The Phone Resource.

Photo Credit: Flickr