Department of Speech and Hearing Science

Telecommunication Devices

The telephone is a vital element in our daily living. We routinely use the telephone for business or pleasure. The telephone can have life saving capacities. Hearing loss can make telephone communication difficult or impossible. Telecommunication devices help to make the telephone accessible to everyone by producing either enhanced auditory or visual signals. A telecoil in a hearing aid is an important feature to ensure successful coupling to a telephone.

Auditory Devices

Auditory devices or amplifiers boost the loudness and/or the pitch of the signal coming through the telephone receiver. All amplifiers can be used alone but are also "hearing aid compatible" permitting an electromagnetic coupling to the telecoil (T-switch) of a personal hearing aid. A variety of telephone amplifiers are available to meet varying needs.

Replacement Handset Amplifier
Replaces the existing handset of a modular telephone.

In-line Amplifier
Connects between the telephone handset and the base of an existing telephone.

Portable Amplifier
Straps over the telephone receiver for greater portability. The only amplifier for cordless phones and trimline phones.

Telephone Headset Amplifier
Connects to an existing modular telephone and allows hands-free telephone use.

Amplified Telephone
Full featured telephones with built-in adjustable amplification and ring volume and pitch.

Issues to Consider

Devices will differ in the strength and frequency characteristics of the amplifier and some devices can be customized to the user's hearing loss. Other variances include style, compatibility with various telephones, and the source of the electrical power. Finally, cost, portability, ease of use and installation should be considered when selecting an auditory device.

Non-Auditory Devices

For individuals who cannot hear or fully understand speech, even when it is amplified, the use of a Text Telephone (TTY) becomes essential. A TTY, also known as a TDD (Telecommunication Device for the Deaf), provides a typed/visual signal of the telephone conversation. TTYs can be connected directly to the phone line (direct connect) or the telephone receiver placed in an acoustic modem. Typically, instead of using voice, each communicator types a message on the keyboard. The message is transmitted over the telephone lines and appears in printed form on the LCD screen. TTYs are used by persons with varying degrees of hearing loss, by speech impaired persons and by hearing people who want direct phone contact with individuals who use TTYs. A variety of TTYs are available to meet differing needs. With a special modem and software a personal computer may be used as a TTY. TTYs are available which can be linked to compatible cellular telephones extending the convenience and portability of cellular telephone use to the TTY user.

Issues to Consider

Most TTYs are portable and operate on rechargeable batteries or line current. They vary, however, in degree of sophistication with added features such as built-in printers, memory capacity, transmission speed, auto-answer etc. The cost of the device increases with the number of added features.