Determining the best phones for the hearing-impaired often depends on the type and extent of impairment. Total hearing loss can require additional services, while moderate hearing loss may only require the amplification of sounds. Useful features on the best phones include non-auditory notification of calls, such as flashing lights and vibrations.
For minor hearing loss, amplified phones and phones with additional earpiece options are generally the best types for the price. One of the first such phones is the C900 Clarity, a cell phone which can amplify all incoming noises by as much as 20 decibels (dB). Marketed towards seniors, the C900 also includes enhancement for other minor impairments, such as large buttons and a large, high-contrast screen. A flashing orange LED also provides a non-auditory way to signal incoming calls.
Among the newest in hearing technologies, bone-vibrating phones allow sound to bypass the traditional through-the-air route to the inner ear. The Mirafone OP201 is one such traditional phone that uses these technologies. Other companies are developing cell phones and headsets that utilize this technology in helping the hard of hearing. This technology is also being marketed for the general population, for use in environments with a lot of external noise. In addition to the unique sound delivery method, the OP201 also includes the visual call notification and other hard-of-hearing options.
TTY Services and Options
For those who have severe or total hearing impairment, then amplification and vibration services won't be enough. To accommodate this, a Teletype (TTY) or Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD) phone. Such phones as the VTech 8840 have an additional LCD where text is displayed. These calls use an intermediary who types audio messages for the deaf and will speak written message in instances where the user lacks speech capability. This TTY service is free throughout the U.S., in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and can be engaged by dialing 7-1-1.
Cellular phones have begun to blur the lines between specialty and regular phones. Bone-conduction technology is being adapted into headsets that will work with any cell phone. Since all cell phones have screens for text, all phones can easily send and receive TTY text. As a result, many users who are merely hard of hearing can use a traditional phone without seeking out specially designed phones.