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Listening devices

Captioncall-transparentAlthough hearing aids are extremely useful in assisting individuals with hearing loss in their day to day activities, there are many situations in which the hearing aid alone will not provide sufficient benefit. The use of an assistive listening device (ALD) may be required to help in these situations.


Communication on the telephone may be difficult for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing for varying reasons. The issues may be volume or tonal or a combination of both.

For those that use a hearing aid, it is important to consider hearing aid compatibility. When a telephone is noted to be “hearing aid compatible,” this means that the ear piece of the phone emits a magnetic field. If a hearing aid is equipped with a telephone coil or “T-coil,” this coil is able to respond to the magnetic field, allowing the hearing aid to pickup and amplify the voice from the phone directly. This also blocks surrounding sounds while the individual uses the telephone. The T-coil feature may also be used with a variety of Assistive Listening Devices.

There are a few different types of telephone amplifiers to attach to a regular telephone as well as amplified telephones.

The different types of telephone amplifiers are a Portable Strap-on Amplifier and an In-line Telephone Amplifier. The Portable Strap-on Amplifier is a small battery operated device that can be used both with cordless and regular phones. These amplifiers are generally hearing aid compatible, however the amplifier usually has to be removed after each use – they are not usually recommended for general home or office use, but are quite useful while traveling. An In-line Amplifier is a telephone amplifier that connects the phone’s handset to the phone’s base. These can only be used with phones that have a cord that can be removed between the handset and phone base. There are different kinds of In-Line amplifiers available for home or office use as well as the ability to be attached to headsets. They are either battery or electric powered. They usually have both a volume and tone adjust.

  • Cell phones (or smartphones) and accessories: The cell or smartphone market is ever changing. Many cell phones will note that they are hearing aid compatible. Cell phone compatibility ratings of M3, M4 or T3 or T4 are most desired.  Cell phones with these ratings are the most compatible with hearing aids.  Many hearing aid manufacturers make proprietary devices that can connect your hearing aids directly to bluetooth enabled phones.  Hearing aid “Connectivity” as it is known has opened up the world of cell phone use to many hearing impaired individuals.  Connectivity is not available for all hearing aids.  We encourage you to check with your audiologist to see if your hearing aids have this capability.
  • Amplified telephones: These are generally the ideal when in need for telephone amplification. There are many amplified telephones on the market from corded phones to cordless phones, speakerphones and phones with answering machines. Most amplified telephones have features such as volume and tone control, flashing light and loud ring and pattern of ring variations. Many of them have features such as memory and emergency one touch buttons.  Because hearing is so subjective we typically don’t make recommendations for a specific phone.  We do advise to find a phone that is at a comfortable price point and returnable.  You may have to try several different phones before you find the one that will work for you.  In addition to amplified phones, Captioned Phones are also available
  • Captioned telephone:  This type of phone works like any other telephone but also displays each word the caller says throughout the conversation. Users of captioned phones such as CaptionCall (above) and CapTel can listen to the caller and also read the captions as they talk.
  • Spanish relay: Spanish relay is available for TTY, VCO and CapTel users. You can dial 711 and ask (either spoken or typed) for a Spanish speaking operator. There are also direct numbers that can be dialed that will connect directly to a Spanish speaking operator – 1-800-4356-8590, 1-800-855-2888.
  • Other useful telephone adaptations: A variety of adaptations are available for individuals that have hearing aids. Some options for using the telephone this way are: using a speaker-phone at close range; using the telephone with a neckloop or silhouette coils; and using direct audio input into the hearing aid.
  • Internet Protocol (IP) Relay: IP  works the same using a TTY or VCO; however it is used through a computer connected to the Internet.
  • Video Relay Service (VRS): VRS is a form of Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) that enables deaf or hard of hearing individuals who use American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate with voice telephone users through video equipment. The VRS user is connected with a TRS Communication Assistant (CA) so that the VRS user and the CA can see each other and communicate in signed conversation. The CA then relays the conversation to the voice phone user.

Television and radio

For many individuals, the frustration associated with watching television may simply be one of distance. As one listens to a TV from a distance, not only does the sound signal become weaker as it travels from the television to the ears, but the acoustical characteristics of the room make the sound less distinct.

Some TVs come with jacks into which an earphone or a transmitter can be plugged.

There are many other options including various wireless transmitters and receivers using both FM and infrared transmission as well as proprietary devices made by hearing aid manufacturers that can link your hearing aid to your TV.  Compatibility is reliant on the type and age of your hearing aid.

Classroom, meeting room or lecture hall

The most common type of wireless device used in a classroom setting is an FM radio transmitter and receiver.

With an FM, the speaker wears a small transmitter with a microphone. The listener wears a small receiver that may be used with headphones or with hearing aids via a neckloop. This enables the speaker and listener to move feely without wires between them. Conference microphones are also available designed to be put in the middle of a table and pick up the voices of several people at the same time.

Theater, cinema or house of worship

The types of transmission used in a wide area system are FM radio transmission, infrared transmission, and magnetic induction. All three systems transmit the sound signal which is received by individuals in the audience who are wearing special receivers that provide amplification. Please note that these different types of receivers are not interchangeable and can only be used for the particular type of system for which they have been designed.

There are a variety of receivers that are available with both FM and Infrared systems. Some are headset receivers that can be used alone while others are designed to be used with hearing aids that are equipped with telephone switches. In the case of an induction loop system, for individuals wearing hearing aids with telephone switches (T-Coils), no special receiver is required. However, for those not wearing hearing aids or those wearing hearing aids which are not equipped with a telephone switch, use of a special induction receiver would be necessary in order to receive amplified sound.

Although mandated by law, there may be instances where theaters don’t stock enough receivers. Many individuals find it convenient to purchase their own receivers because they can also be used at home for TV viewing when used in conjunction with an appropriate transmitter or room induction loop.

An individual with a moderate hearing loss may benefit from a receiver headset, while an individual with a more severe loss may benefit from using a neckloop, a wide area or room induction system, or direct audio input with their hearing aids since they are able to obtain the high amplification that they may require directly from their hearing aids.

Noisy environment

Most hearing aid users have a difficult time understanding conversation when in a noisy environment. There are a few ways of dealing with noisy situations. Some hearing aid users are able to plug an extra microphone into their hearing aid(s) or use a personal communicator also known as a personal listener. These are small microphone/amplifier combinations, which can be used with a variety of headsets or with a neckloop in conjunction with hearings aids