Your Guide to Cell Phones and Hearing Loss

There are a lot of incredible telephone options for the hard of hearing. Amplified phones which are Bluetooth compatible help while you are at home by pairing to your existing cell phone service, no landline needed. You receive the same quality sound with your cell phone conversations as you do with all other calls. While this is excellent when at home, this can prove problematic when it comes time to communicate on the go. Luckily, cellphone companies have taken notice, and there are now ample cellphone options for people who have hearing loss.

The Features a Cellphone Must Have

When it comes to purchasing a cellphone for the hard of hearing, it’s less about the brand and more about the available features. Here are the must-haves to look for:

  • Compatible with Hearing Aids – Many people with hearing aids have a troublesome time with cellphones due to their interference. However, there is a way to find a phone that will not interfere with a hearing aid. Cellphones have a rating for their microphone (M) and a rating for the telecoil (T). To see if the phone is compatible with hearing aids, the user simply needs to make sure the combined rating of the two equals at least six, but the higher the better.
  • Controllable Volume – It may seem obvious, but some phones make it a lot easier to access the volume control. Find a phone that makes it simple to turn the volume up or down.
  • Ability to Vibrate – Since notifications cannot be heard, any cellphone for the hard of hearing should offer the option to have the phone vibrate as a message alert.
  • Simple to Text– Texting is an incredible way for the hard of hearing to communicate, and some phones make it easier than others. Many people love the Blackberry for texting because it has a traditional keyboard on the phone.  But if going with a regular smartphone, remember that the larger the screen, the larger the buttons.  Voice recognition allows for the ‘dictation’ of text messages, which is often easier than typing on a cell-phone sized keyboard.
  • Option for a Data Only Plan – Since those who are profoundly hard of hearing (often referred to as ‘Late-Deafened’) will not be making traditional voice phone calls, they shouldn’t have to pay for the feature. AT&T, SprintVerizon, and T-Mobile offer data-only plans ranging from $20 to $40 per month.

Additional Features That Should Be Considered

The above features are required for a smooth cell phone experience, but there are some other options that will further improve the experience:

  • Option to Reduce Backlight – Sometimes the backlight of a cellphone can cause interference, so the ability to turn it off can make a clearer connection.
  • Ability to Connect to a TTY – While texting is a great option on the go, many people prefer to have the full keyboard option that a teletypewriter provides. Most cellphones are compatible with a TTY machine (using a cable and adjusting the phone’s settings) for faster typing while at home.
  • Video Calling – When communicating with someone who is hard of hearing, visual cues play a big role in effectively relaying the message. As such, a phone with a video call option can prove extremely beneficial.

The opportunities that a cell phone can provide to someone who is hard of hearing are limitless. As long as the aforementioned features are chosen, the phone will allow them a sense of freedom by allowing them to effectively communicate wherever their day takes them.

Florida Telecommunications Relay, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing the deaf and hard of hearing with the communications equipment they need, offers two Bluetooth amplified phones for FREE to those who qualify:

  • The XLC7BT Cordless Amplified Telephone allows you to make calls with and without a landline connection. Pair up to two (2) Bluetooth-enabled cellphones, and enjoy using the familiar cordless phone with your cellphone service.
  • The BT914 Amplified Telephone also pairs with your Bluetooth-enabled cell phone and is an ideal solution for those with mild to moderate hearing loss.

If you are someone who needs captioned phone calls, FTRI offers the CapTel 840i that does not require an internet connection.  Like all the other phones and ring signalers in the FTRI program, they are fee to those who qualify.

Contact Florida Telecommunications Relay to see if we can help you get the equipment you require.