As you get older, many things about your body just aren’t going to feel or work the same. Gone will be the days you can hop out of bed after four hours of sleep and not miss a beat. Gone, too, for many people, are the days when they could have a breezy phone conversation, chatting back and forth without missing relevant information.
Upgrading your phone to a model that works to help you with your hearing impairment isn’t just a good idea- it may be a necessity. Our guide to the best phones for the hearing impaired will teach you about:
What is a Phone for the Hearing Impaired?
Phones for the hearing impaired are designed to help people with hearing loss overcome their hearing issue and maintain productive, easy conversations. Hearing loss often causes people to have to ask others to repeat themselves over and over, making for clunky and frustrating phone conversations.
This makes many people, seniors especially, less likely to pick up the phone and dial a friend or family member because it doesn’t feel like it’s worth the struggle. Similarly, handling important business over the phone when you have a hearing impairment can be a nightmare, especially if you miss crucial information.
Fortunately, many companies have recognized the need for phones that accommodate hearing impairments and have designed products that do just that. These phones make it possible for people suffering from hearing loss to communicate effectively and smoothly, reclaiming a sense of normalcy that they may have lost due to their hearing impairment.
How Does a Phone for the Hearing Impaired Work?
There are three types of technologies that these phones use to help people with hearing loss communicate. First, there are phones that are simply louder than normal phones. These devices may be classified by the FDA as “assisted listening devices”, meaning they can be twice as loud as standard regulations would allow. These phones are pretty common and often very inexpensive, with an average price tag slightly above what you could expect to pay for a phone without amplified sound.
The second type of technology that phones for the hearing impaired use is captioning. Captioning, similar to the captions on your TV, is a real-time visual display of what is being said. In the past decade, the technology that powers captioning systems has progressed by leaps and bounds.
Now, captioning technology can perform accurate captioning in real-time, during live conversations! This means that you can be speaking to someone and read what they are saying almost as fast as they’ve said it. These phones look a lot like regular landlines, but with larger, brighter digital screens.
The final type of technology that phones use to accommodate for hearing impairments is voice clarification. This is a term that refers to a built-in equalization feature, one which emphasizes the pitch of human voices over background noise and other sounds. The result is that the voice of the person you are speaking to comes through much clearer than anything else that may be entering that phone.
Are Phones Compatible With Hearing Aids?
Yes! Phones are manufactured to be compatible with hearing aids. In fact, it’s required by the FCC that all phones are compatible with hearing aids. However, not every phone performs equally in this regard; some meet the minimum requirement, and others exceed it. There are two types of ratings that are listed with phones that indicate how well they work with hearing aids: “M Ratings” and “T Ratings”. Let’s discuss what these ratings mean, and what they mean for you:
Hearing Aid Compatible Phones: T Ratings Explained
Telecoil mode, on the other hand, is a mode that receives tiny magnetic signals from phones that also feature telecoils. When in telecoil mode, background noise and signal interference is sharply reduced, leading to clearer phone calls and more effective communication.
Just like the microphone rating, T ratings are given on a scale from 1-4, with 4 being the highest and best (T1, T2, T3, and T4). iPhones, for the record, all have a T4 rating, meaning they are in the best class of cell phones for hearing aids that include telecoils. About 60% of hearing aids have telecoils, but not every model does. So, be sure to check your hearing aids to see if they include telecoils before you settle on a phone!
The Bottom Line: Phones and Hearing Aids
Phones do work with hearing aids, but not every phone performs to the same level. Ratings for hearing aids are usually combined in the device’s specifications, looking something like this:
If you use a hearing aid, checking the Hearing Aid Compatibility (HAC) rating on a phone you are considering is crucial. If you forget this, you run the risk of getting a phone that doesn’t work- and that’s the last thing you need!
Best Cell Phones for the Hearing Impaired
1. Best Hearing Aid Compatible Cell Phone: Ushining Seniors Cell Phone
This phone might not be flashy, but that’s the entire point. It’s simple, it has large buttons that are easy to use, and it works excellently with hearing aids. If you don’t use hearing aids, this phone is still plenty loud and can help you hear more clearly than you have in years.
This phone works with many carriers and is about as simple as cell phones get these days. It also has an SOS button on the back that can alert doctors, EMS, and family members if you have a medical emergency.
If you’re the type of person who doesn’t need much from their cell phone, this is for you. Beyond that, this phone delivers excellent performance for the hard of hearing, meaning that it may be worth it to keep this phone on hand for phone calls and use a different device for surfing the internet and checking Facebook, rather than have a smartphone you cannot hear!
HAC Rating: M4/T4
2. Best Smart Phone for Hearing Loss: Google Pixel 5
This 5G-enabled phone can be used with any major carrier and is among the fastest phones on the market. It’s loud enough that most people with light-moderate hearing loss can hear it without a hearing aid, though it works best with a hearing aid for people with moderate-severe hearing issues.
The Pixel 5 also has one of the best cameras in any cell phone, meaning you can take high-quality photos that’ll blow your old phone or digital camera out of the water. These features, great though they are, aren’t the best part of this phone.
The Pixel 5 has a real-time captioning feature, called “Live Caption” that instantly transcribes every word that the other person is saying. This feature is a huge selling point of the Pixel 5, allowing you to keep up with your conversations without having to depend on loudness or hearing aid compatibility. The Live Caption feature was demonstrated in this popular ad, featuring the true story of a phone call between a son and his deaf father:
HAC Rating: M4/T3
3. Best Flip Phone for the Hearing Impaired: Easyfone Prime-A1 3G Flip Phone
It’s not quite as easy to find a flip phone in 2021 as it was in 2005, but there are still a few solid models around. The Easyfone Prime-A1 is one such option that is designed for seniors and people who are hard of hearing. It’s rated in the best class of phones for hearing aids, has large and simple buttons, and is loud enough for any senior/person with hearing loss to communicate effectively.
This phone lacks the ability to check social media, read the news, or engage in other activities that people use their smartphones for, but it makes up for that in call quality. If you’re looking for a device that can keep you connected in multiple ways, this isn’t it. If, however, you’re in the market for a cell phone that will allow you to have clear, productive phone conversations at a low price, the Easyfone Prime-A1 is exactly what you need.
HAC Rating: M4/T4
4. Best iPhone for the Hearing Impaired: iPhone 12 Pro Max
The 12 Pro Max is the newest and largest phone from global sensation, Apple. It has one of the largest screens on any phone, is 5G-ready, and comes with Apple’s signature sleek and intuitive design. If you’ve had trouble learning how to use a smartphone in the past, you may find the simplicity of iPhones to be a breath of fresh air.
The iPhone may not have the real-time phone call captioning featured on the Google Pixel 5, but you can download an app, conveniently named “Live Caption”, that will transcribe in-person conversations and TV shows for you, so that you can read along and communicate that way. The large screen size of the 12 Pro Max makes reading texts, e-mails, and Live Captions a piece of cake.
This phone works very well with hearing aids and has Bluetooth, connecting instantly to your favorite listening device. If you’re looking for cutting-edge technology delivered in a user-friendly package, iPhone is the way to go, without a doubt.
HAC Rating: M3/T4
5. Best Android Phone for the Hard of Hearing: Samsung Galaxy S21 5G
The Galaxy line of cell phones is Samsung/Android’s answer to the iPhone, outperforming it in every technical measurement. It’s better than the iPhone for people with hearing aids that don’t have telecoils (due to its M4/T3 rating), has a more powerful camera, and a longer-lasting battery.
Despite being more powerful than the iPhone, equally fast, and just as suited to people with hearing impairments, it costs $300 less. If performance matters to you more than style, this phone is exactly what you’re looking for. It still has plenty of style; it’s just that it places performance and speed at a higher priority level than Apple phones do.
HAC Rating: M4/T3
Best Landline Phones for the Hearing Impaired
6. Best Landline Phone (Overall): Clarity XLC3.4+
This extra-loud landline phone has a very classic and simple interface and can deliver audio up to 50 decibels right into your ears. If you have hearing issues but aren’t using a hearing aid, a loud phone like this one can help you clearly make out what is being said, without the help of another listening device.
The biggest drawback of this phone is that it lacks captioning features; this is the only thing that stops it from being perfect. Still, even without live captioning, this phone is more than suitable for any senior or person who has a hearing impairment.
HAC Rating: M4/T4
7. Best Caption Phone for the Hearing Impaired: Hamilton CapTel 2400i
This is the gold standard in captioned landline phones. With a large, bright screen, you won’t miss a thing that is being said and communicate with zero difficulties, even with severe hearing impairments. The phone has an excellent sound boost, too, helping you hear just as well as you can read!
The only reason you may not want to get this phone is if you don’t have home internet. The CapTel system requires an internet connection for the captioning to function, so people without internet access are left out of this amazing benefit. If you have internet, though, the real-time captioning, 95-name caller ID, and 40-decibel sound boost are more than enough to make this an excellent phone for the hearing impaired!
HAC Rating: M4/T4
8. Best Landline Phone for Hearing Aids: VTech SN5127 Cordless Landline Phone
VTech, one of the most trusted brands for home phones, produces this excellent voice amplifying cordless phone. It has a 50-decibel audio boost, making everything the person on the other end of the line is saying come through loud and clear. The volume control is on the side of the handset, very easy to turn up and down as needed during your conversation.
The ringer is extremely loud- 90 decibels- and has a flashing light that makes it possible for anyone, even with severe hearing loss, to be able to pick up the phone on time, every time. If that is too loud, you can turn the ringer down, because it has five different audio levels.
It isn’t the fanciest phone around, but it is extremely easy to use and was built top-to-bottom for people with hearing difficulties. If you’re tired of missing what people are saying, this affordable phone is for you!
HAC Rating: M4/T4
Buying Guide: How to Choose a Phone for Hearing Impairments
Where to Buy Phones for the Hearing Impaired
Tips for Buying the Best Hearing Impaired Phone for Your Needs
Locked vs Unlocked Cell Phones
When shopping for a cell phone, the distinction between “locked” (meaning it’s anchored to one specific carrier) and “unlocked” (phones that can be used with any carrier) is crucial. If you buy a phone that is locked to Verizon and try to activate it with T-Mobile, you’ve wasted your money, unless you’re ready to switch providers! So, before buying a phone, make sure it is compatible with your cell phone carrier or prepare to change your provider.
Upgrading to a phone that will accommodate your hearing impairment means that there are a lot of features you should be on the lookout for:
There we have it! Each phone on our list is designed to help people with hearing impairments, in one way or another. If you are experiencing hearing loss, you should seriously consider upgrading so that you can communicate clearly and effectively again. Which phone was the most appealing to you? Have any questions about one of the cell phones or landlines we featured? Leave your thoughts in the section below!