If you have hearing loss, amplified phones can make phone calls enjoyable again. Learn about the different types of amplified phones and if they might help you.
Amplified phones are specifically designed phones for people with hearing loss, allowing you to adjust the sound as necessary to hear speech clearly.
For those with hearing loss, everyday activities like talking on the phone can be challenging. While some people might avoid talking on the phone so their friends and family don't get frustrated with repeating themselves, amplified phones can help you stay in touch with loved ones.
Studies show people with hearing loss who become isolated have a higher chance of depression compared with those who maintain strong ties with friends and family members. With the help of amplified phones, you can stay in contact.
Most people who use amplified phones don't use hearing aids yet, but people with hearing aids can certainly use them, as well.
You can purchase an amplified phone with or without a cord, depending on your preference and budget.
Amplified phones have louder volume and pitch control
Like the name implies, amplified phones allow you to increase the volume of both the ringer and the speaker. But they also have tone control features that make it easier to adjust and hear high-pitched noises, which many people with hearing loss find challenging. Some models also have "boost" options that let you temporarily increase the volume if needed.
Hearing aid compatibility
If you wear a hearing aid, cochlear implant or bone-anchored hearing device, make sure your amplified phone is considered hearing aid compatible. This means it reduces interference between the hearing aid and the phone. Most models these days include this feature, and so do all smartphones.
Features and accessories for amplified phones
Landline amplified phones will often come with:
Preset tones to change pitch of voices
Some phones come with preset tone control that allows you to quickly change the pitch of a person's voice. For example, if you're talking to your adult son who you hear fine, and your grandchild gets on the phone, you can hit the tone control button to make their voice less high-pitched. Many people appreciate this feature.
Many brands allow you to buy an extra headset without needing to buy an entirely landline. For example, you can have your main phone downstairs, and an extra headset for upstairs, that are connected to the same number.
Extra-loud ringers and visual or vibrating ringers
Do you ever find that you have missed calls completely because you can't hear the telephone ring? Many amplified phones have settings that allow you to turn up the volume on the ringer so that you never miss an important call again.
Some models will even have a visual indicator, like a flashing light, so you can see when you are receiving an incoming call. Some phones have the capability of ringing up to five times louder than a traditional telephone. It varies on the brand, but the ringer volume can go as high as about 115 dB. "Bed shaker" alerts can also vibrate.
Telecoil (t-coil) connection
If you're a hearing aid wearer, you may have a telecoil in your hearing aids. With the flip of a small switch, you can make sure that your hearing aids are only picking up the sound that is coming through the telephone, and not background noise around you.
Bluetooth connection to stream sound
Some phones offer a Bluetooth connection so you can stream the call directly to your hearing aid or smartphone.
Can I get an amplified phone for free?
Not exactly, but many states have programs that loan phones out to people with hearing loss, as long as the hearing loss has been verified by a health professional. Use this state telephone program guide from the Hearing Loss Association of America to check what the benefits are in your state. Some states, such as Texas, offer vouchers. In either case, it makes it very affordable to own an amplified phone.
What about amplified smartphones?
When shopping for a smartphone, test out how loud the volume can go on voice calls, both on and off speakerphone mode.
Some cell phones also come with amplified volume settings, such as the Jitterbug brand, which is also designed for people with vision problems. If your smartphone isn't loud enough, you can also consider getting a portable phone amplifier, see below.
Portable phone amplifiers
If you travel often or need to understand telephone conversations both at home and at work, you may benefit from using a telephone amplifier, which is a separate device that increases the volume of a regular landline or mobile phone.
Compatible with many types of phone models, in-line telephone amplifiers are best for people with moderate to severe hearing loss. These devices increase sound by up to 40 decibels, and you can control the tone of speech.
People with mild-to-moderate hearing loss may benefit best from using a portable amplifier, which increases sounds by up to 30 decibels. These small devices attach to the headset on a telephone, with a built-in control for volume, so it's simple to make the conversation louder or softer. This is a great option for people who talk on the phone on a regular basis, because an incoming caller may have different settings on their phone.
Do I need an amplified phone?
People with hearing loss have many resources available to make it easier to understand others and communicate properly. If you are unsure if getting an amplified phone is the best option for you, here are some considerations:
Degree of hearing loss
When you are finding the perfect amplified phone to buy, you will need to consider your degree of hearing loss, so that the product you purchase has the clearest quality. The best way to find your degree of hearing loss is by getting a comprehensive hearing evaluation:
Mild hearing loss: If you have mild hearing loss, you may find that conversations aren't always clear. You can hear sound, but it may sound muffled or odd. People with a mild condition may strain while chatting with someone because sounds like "f" and "th" can be difficult to decipher, as well as children's and women's voices. In technical terms, mild hearing loss is defined as being able to hear speech between 26 and 40 decibels.
Moderate hearing loss: Do you find yourself constantly asking other people to repeat themselves? If so, you might be categorized as having moderate hearing loss. People with moderate hearing loss generally are able to hear sounds between 40 and 70 decibels.
Severe hearing loss: If you have severe hearing loss, chances are you are using hearing aids on a regular basis to hear sounds and understand speech. People with severe hearing loss can only hear sounds between 70 and 90 decibels. People with severe hearing loss will benefit from a phone with high amplification.
A hearing test with a qualified hearing care professional can determine your specific degree of hearing loss, you can find the perfect phone that suits your needs.
Talk to a hearing care professional
Hearing healthcare professionals often display and demonstrate amplified phones. You may be able to try different models to see how they work for you. A local practitioner can also help you determine whether you qualify for free or reduced-rate phones from resources in your area.