Many individuals consider the telephone to be a necessary device in their day-to-day lives. From communicating with friends to getting help in an emergency, the telephone allows for unlimited communication with almost anyone else with a phone. Approximately 94% of American households have telephone service. In today’s world, being able to effectively use a telephone is essential. For many individuals, however, using a telephone presents a big challenge.
Hearing loss is a common disability, especially among older persons. Persons with hearing impairments often have difficulty understanding what a speaker is saying even while face to face. This difficulty extends to telephone use as well: conversations on a telephone become increasingly difficult and frustrating if one person cannot hear what the other person is saying. Telephone amplification devices can help eliminate this problem. These are devices that make the incoming voice louder; some telephone amplification devices also reduce background noise, making the incoming voice clearer and easier to understand. Many telephone amplification devices are hearing aid-compatible, which helps in removing noisy feedback. Often, telephone amplification devices make talking on the phone so much easier that persons without hearing impairments find them useful as well.
Telephones with built-in amplification devices can help persons with hearing impairments use the phone successfully. These phones work like a conventional phone, but the volume of the incoming voice can be raised much higher. If a person has a hearing impairment, replacing all of the telephones in his or her home is not necessary. There are smaller devices that attach onto regular phones to amplify the incoming voice. They are easy to use, and some are even portable. Persons with hearing impairments may wish to consider using one of the telephone amplifying devices described below.
Amplifying telephone handsets can often alleviate problems with phone conversations. This kind of device replaces only the handset on a conventional phone. Many amplifying handsets run on one or two batteries to substantially increase the volume of an incoming voice. Amplifying handsets increase only the speaker’s voice. Line amplifiers work in a similar way. Instead of replacing a handset, a line amplifier is a small box that connects between a handset and a phone base. These amplifiers often increase the volume of the incoming voice as much as an amplifying handset will.
Other kinds of amplifiers fit directly over a telephone earpiece and are held in place by straps. This kind of amplifier extends the earpiece by about one inch. Although it is small, it can usually increase the volume of the incoming voice as much as other amplifying devices. The advantage of a detachable telephone amplifier is that it is portable, and can therefore be attached to a friend’s phone, a public phone, or any other phone. Many detachable amplifiers have adjustable volume controls. These devices often weigh very little, and are small enough to be carried in a purse or a pocket.
A telephone voice amplifier can help a person with a hearing impairment to better understand the incoming voice, but the phone’s ring may not be loud enough to hear. A ring amplifier increases the volume of a telephone’s ring so that it is easier to hear. This device plugs directly into a phone jack in a wall, and the telephone plugs into the ring amplifier. Many telephone ring amplifiers have an adjustable volume control that can be set to an individual’s preference.
A hearing impairment does not need to keep a person from using the telephone. Amplifiers for both voice and ring can make a telephone accessible to almost anyone. Because the telephone is an appliance that is used so often, being able to use one can help a person communicate with friends or get help in an emergency. These devices are relatively easy to use, and can make the difference between not being able to understand what a person on the phone is saying and comfortably carrying on a phone conversation.
Project LINK is a free, national information service that mails catalogs and other product information from companies that make or sell helpful products. Since no names or addresses are released to companies, the confidentiality of the consumer is protected. To join Project LINK, call (voice/TTY/TDD) (800) 628-2281 or write to:
Center for Assistive Technology
University at Buffalo
515 Kimball Tower
Buffalo, NY 14214
The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Aging offers a number of videos, pamphlets, and articles, some directed at health care professionals and others designed for consumers. To receive a free product catalog, call (voide/TTY) (800) 628-2281.
AudiTech sells many of the devices described above, as well as other devices that may be helpful to persons with hearing impairments. For more information, call (voice/TTY)(800) 229-8293, or write to:
381 Cockrell Road
Vicksburg, Mississippi 39180-0381
Abledata has a database of information on assistive devices, including the devices described above. Call (800) 227-0216 to speak with a specialist who can perform a database search for you, or write to:
8455 Colesville Road
Silver Spring, Maryland 20910
Sammons Preston sells many assistive devices. For a catalog, call (800) 323-5547, or write to:
P.O. Box 5071
Bolingbrook, Illinois 60440-5071
HARC Mercantile sells many assistive devices for persons with hearing impairments. For a free catalog, call (Voice/TTY) (800)445-9968, or write to:
HARC Mercantile, Ltd.
Hearing Aid Center of Kalamazoo
PO Box 3055
Kalamazoo, Michigan 49003