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Hearing Impaired Telephones - Buying Guide for Hearing Impaired Telephones

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At one time, those with hearing impairments had to go without being able to use the telephone. Everyday life is so reliant on this ubiquitous communications technology that an undue hardship was presented on the hearing disabled of which many were not even aware. As technology grew, however, new models of phones were released in order to accommodate people with partial, or even total, hearing loss.

Different hearing impaired telephones make use of different technologies depending on the level of hearing loss. Some models encompass every feature required for telephone communications, while some are simply add-ons for already existing telephones. Hearing impaired individuals have a range of choices available to them based on both need and personal choice. The hearing impaired telephones available today include the following:

Amplified Phones

Amplified telephones usually include three key features: super-loud ringing alerts, flashing light call alert, and increased volume. Most of the units come with adjustable controls to accommodate those with different levels of impairment, or for no impairment at all. This is handy for people who are not hearing impaired themselves, but often have hearing impaired guests or relatives in the home. It is also possible to buy amplifying units that can be attached to regular landline phones. These devices connect to the telephone either through a phone line relay or through the line to which the handset is attached.

Amplified phones can increase the sound level by up to 50 decibels, and amplifier units can increase sound by up to 30 decibels. Amplifier units only cost from $30 to $50. Dedicated amplified telephones cost much more, from $100 to $200. It is important to note that these solutions all require cords. Cordless dedicated amplified phones are available, but they cost much more. Cordless models can amplify sound from 30 to 50 decibels and cost $160 to $300.

TTY/TDD Phones

Text Telephones for the hearing impaired are usually found under the name of TTY (Tele-Typewriter) or TDD (Telecommunication Device for the Deaf). Whichever name they go by, they provide the same function with the same technology. TDD hearing impaired telephones are made for those who have severe to total impairment. The technology was actually invented back in the 1960s, but was unavailable to the masses until they could be mass-produced efficiently and inexpensively. Today, there are over 4 million users of TDDs in the United States.

TDD units look like small laptop computers. They have a keyboard and a small display screen. It works much the same as internet instant messaging, except that the signals travel over the phone lines from one telephone number to another. The devices use either flashing lights to alert the individual that a call is coming through or a special wireless wristband that vibrates when calls arrive.

In their day, TDD units were state-of-the-art technology, but by 1970 only 600 were available. The problem with TDDs is that to work, it requires the caller also have a TDD. Since they were expensive, not very many people could afford them. Today, this problem has been virtually eliminated due to national and state telephone relay services. Relay services are mandated and overseen by the FCC. They allow callers to make calls using a standard phone to the relay service, and the relay service then transcribes your voice through a TDD machine to the recipient in real time. The recipient then types a response to the relay service worker who then reads it to you. These services are free and available 24-hours every day simply by dialing 7-1-1 from any standard telephone.

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