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Cell Phones for the Hearing Impaired

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

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 and software that can make communication easier.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2008 Ruth Coffee

If You Have Personal Recommendations, Tell Us Below

www.agelessbeautysolutions.com on April 16, 2019:

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didi4di on July 25, 2013:

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

fcinternetmarketing on July 04, 2013:

Very helpful lens those who need these products.

marvmac on June 13, 2013:

Learned some new things

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weballan on May 12, 2013:

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anonymous on May 12, 2013:

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

The more search criteria the better.

anonymous on May 02, 2013:

very good, informative lens

MaxMunch06 on April 15, 2013:

I did!

mmwoodward on March 04, 2013:

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!

anonymous on February 27, 2013:

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spencerharry80 lm on February 16, 2013:

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

JackThompson21 on February 12, 2013:

Nice lens!

ErnestGregorski on February 05, 2013:

This lens is stellar! Nice job :)

elin678 on January 31, 2013:

Great lens!

DanielTorri on January 30, 2013:

Squidalicious lens ;)

Sicilian on January 08, 2013:

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.

anonymous on January 07, 2013:

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

anonymous on January 06, 2013:

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 on January 04, 2013:

Very nice lens!! :)

carolweez on December 22, 2012:

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 on December 19, 2012:

Love this :D

GeekGirl1 on December 14, 2012:

fantastic lens.

DearReview on December 10, 2012:

Great info. Useful for my grandpa for sure!

mistaben on December 06, 2012:

Thank you for the information. Fantastic lens =)

HuxleyPerceptions on November 27, 2012:

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 on November 18, 2012:

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br0k2e on November 11, 2012:

Looks good. Lots of info !

JoshK47 on November 05, 2012:

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

latishaalford on October 29, 2012:

Very beneficial page

anonymous on October 27, 2012:

Great stuff.

MariannMroczkowski on October 23, 2012:

This lens is really great... nice job!

spids lm on October 21, 2012:

These are great! What a fun talent to have!

ValentineVittorini on October 11, 2012:

Nice lens :)

StanfordBrendle on October 09, 2012:

Great lens!

anonymous on October 07, 2012:

thanks for the useful lens

Mami Design on October 06, 2012:

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

anonymous on October 01, 2012:

Excellent research and layout!

spids1 on September 30, 2012:

great lens love this!

HomeDecorKnight on September 27, 2012:

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

Spiderlily321 on September 25, 2012:

Great information! Thank you so much.

anonymous on September 25, 2012:

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

TradeIT on September 20, 2012:

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

TradeIT on September 20, 2012:

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

anonymous on September 15, 2012:

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...

anonymous on July 19, 2012:

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 on July 19, 2012:

Super Lens! :)

sandi_x on June 23, 2012:

This is really great lens

fashionyahoo on June 16, 2012:

wow this is some great lens, thanks for sharing

Mr-masruri on June 07, 2012:

good lens

anonymous on May 30, 2012:

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

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

anonymous on May 29, 2012:

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

gunste24 on May 28, 2012:

@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 on May 23, 2012:

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

UKGhostwriter on May 23, 2012:

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

anonymous on May 21, 2012:

very nice post. useful

Millionairemomma on May 07, 2012:

Great lens!

TravelingRae on April 29, 2012:

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. :(

anonymous on April 25, 2012:

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

Adrijan on April 14, 2012:

Nice lens

anonymous on April 10, 2012:

Fine! Click Here to buy Nokia Lumia 900!

blazingzone lm on April 08, 2012:

Thanks for the info. Great lens

anonymous on April 01, 2012:

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

anonymous on March 30, 2012:

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

anonymous on March 30, 2012:

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.

Mastersipep on March 28, 2012:

great lense :)

anonymous on March 18, 2012:

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

Samuel Franklin on February 28, 2012:

Very helpful lens.

accfuller on February 27, 2012:

This is a really good idea!

goo2eyes lm on February 26, 2012:

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

rocks20100 on February 25, 2012:

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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anonymous on January 16, 2012:

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

anonymous on January 16, 2012:

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

tkfwebs on January 11, 2012:

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.

cr00059n on January 01, 2012:

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

luvhammers on December 14, 2011:

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.

E L Seaton from Virginia on October 10, 2011:

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

Ruth Coffee (author) from Zionsville, Indiana on October 09, 2011:

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

anonymous on October 06, 2011:

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

northernsydney on August 21, 2011:

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 on August 20, 2011:

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

winderfly on July 06, 2011:

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

markets on June 21, 2011:

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

Ascent Hearing on May 18, 2011:

Nice lens, very detailed!

Benten101 on May 11, 2011:

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

TeacherSerenia on May 11, 2011:

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 on April 18, 2011:

well thought of, great resource

anonymous on April 03, 2011:

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

Bhecky on March 03, 2011:

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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reemasunil on December 26, 2010:

I think i can buy one to my grandfather.

Julianne Gentile from Cleveland, Ohio, US on December 24, 2010:

Thanks for the info! Happy Holidays!

emilysantos on December 09, 2010:

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

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Gail47 on November 20, 2010:

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!

anonymous on October 26, 2010:

wonderful lens,great information!

SaveMySystem on October 02, 2010:

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.

anonymous on September 21, 2010:

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

anonymous on July 05, 2010:

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

Ladyclodine on May 18, 2010:

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.