Senior woman sits on red chair talking on a landline telephone after she hears the phone ring through her best value hearing aid. can’t hear the phone ring

Tips to Hear the Phone Ring | Hearing Loss

September 28, 2020

Do you know that sinking feeling when you realize that you’ve missed someone’s call because you can’t hear the phone ring? Did they mean to call, or was it an accident? Will they call back? For the hearing impaired, this frustration happens even more frequently. If your call log is full of missed calls from coworkers or loved ones due to hearing loss, keep reading for some tips on how to hear the phone ring.

Why are some phones difficult to hear?

Each phone has a default volume setting for its ringing and sound. It can be soft, loud, high-pitched, or low-pitched. For someone with high-frequency hearing loss (which is most common), a soft, high-pitched ringtone may be virtually impossible to hear, especially without hearing aids. While most landline phones and cell phones allow you to adjust the volume, even the maximum level may not be loud enough to serve someone with hearing loss.

Your environment also plays a role if you can’t hear the phone ring; for instance, a low-pitched ringtone in a very noisy environment will likely be drowned out.

What are the differences between a landline ringer and a cell phone ringer?

Ringtone

Landlines typically have a standard ringtone made up of two or three frequencies that, in North America, have the pattern of two seconds of ringing followed by a four-second pause. A cell phone has more ringtone options, with different tunes and rhythms, that can be set based on your preference.

Accessibility

When a landline rings, unless you have cordless phones elsewhere in the house, it is easy to miss the call if you’re not near the phone. A cell phone is significantly more convenient due to its portability, so you are more likely to have it nearby and hear it ringing.

What ringtones work best for someone with hearing loss?

The ideal ringtone for you will depend on the configuration and your degree of hearing loss. If you have a high-frequency hearing loss, a low-pitched ringtone may be preferable. Alternatively, very loud ringtones may be an option.

What can’t hear the phone ring do to hear their landline or cell phone?

Luckily, there are many options available to ensure that you always know when someone is trying to contact you. Sometimes it can be as simple as turning up the phone’s volume.

Ring amplifiers and other options for landlines

More high-tech options for landlines include using a telephone amplifier, such as the Clarity Super Loud Phone Ringer, which increases the volume and allows you to adjust the tone. There are also many alert systems available that use flashing lights and/or vibrations to let you know that someone is trying to contact you. Examples include the Bellman Visit Home Alerting System, the Clarity AlertMaster Device, and the Deluxe Sonic Alert Transmitter.

All these systems consist of a transmitter that attaches to your landline (as well as your doorbell, alarm clock, and fire alarm) and wirelessly connects to a receiver that flashes and vibrates when triggered. Many come with pagers that tell you which appliance has been activated (such as the doorbell or landline). They have options that include multiple receivers that you can place in each room, or wearable devices that can be with you constantly.

Other cell phone options:

Use a sound-amplifying app

Multiple smartphone apps are available to amplify the sound of your ringtone. Simply search ‘super loud ringtone’ in Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store for iPhone or Android phones, respectively.

Use an app to create your own ringtone

Apps that allow one to do this include Ringtones for iPhone!, Ringtone Designer, Ringdroid, and Audiko.

Enable the vibrate setting

If you’re worried an extra-loud ringtone will bother those around you, the easiest option with mobile phones is to activate the vibrate function (generally found under ‘Sound’ in the settings app). Even if the phone is on silent mode, you will be able to feel a call coming through if the phone is on your person.

Enable visual settings

Later iPhone and Android models also have wonderful options specifically for people with hearing loss. You can set either the screen or the camera light to flash with an incoming call, depending on your preference. As long as your phone is within your line of vision, you will immediately be alerted to a call. On an iPhone, look under settings – Accessibility > Hearing > Audio/visual; on an Android, the setup is via Settings > Accessibility > Advanced settings.

Connect your phone to a smartwatch

So what about when your phone is not within sight? Smartwatches are becoming increasingly popular as exercise and health monitors, but also as a call and notification alert. Wirelessly connected to your cell phone, you can set them to vibrate, flash, and/or make a sound, and even identify who is calling.

What tools are available to help either landline or cell phones be more audible?

As speaking on the phone is one of the biggest barriers for a person with hearing impairment, technology in this area is constantly evolving. The simplest is to increase the volume of your calls or listen over the loudspeaker. However, this can distort the sound and make it even less comprehensible.

Hearing Aids with Telecoils

The oldest technology involves hearing aids with telecoils. When the telecoil is close to the telephone headset, it amplifies the phone signal and reduces background noise. This is a setting your hearing health professional must enable when programming the hearing aids, so be sure to let them know if you would like this option. You can determine whether your landline is compatible with a telecoil by checking if it has the ‘HAC’ (hearing aid compatible) sticker on it.

When speaking on the phone with your hearing aids, be sure to hold the phone directly over the hearing aid’s microphones. With a custom in-ear hearing aid, this will mean holding the phone the usual way (directly over your outer ear). If you wear a behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid, hold the phone just above and behind your ear, against the BTE component.

In the last five years iPhones, and more recently Android devices, have become hearing aid compatible. Using 2.4GHz and Bluetooth technology, certain hearing aids can stream sound directly from the cell phone, making phone calls clearer and easier to understand than ever before. Other hearing aids come with a wearable streamer appliance that connects the phone and hearing aids for improved sound quality.

Captioning

For people with severe to profound hearing loss who may still struggle on the phone, there are captioned telephone options where speech is instantly transcribed into words that appear on the phone’s screen via voice recognition software. This technology comes in landlines and cell phone apps.

In the United States, people with hearing loss can receive a free captioned landline via the Americans with Disabilities Act. You will just need your hearing health professional or doctor to sign a certificate confirming your hearing loss. Companies that offer these phones include CapTel, CaptionCall, ClearCaptions, and InnoCaption. The phones are telecoil-compatible, user-friendly, and come with extra-large screens and adjustable font sizes to read the conversation. Some even have the option to adjust the sound of the phone based on your audiogram so the sound is optimized for you at the same time as the captions.

Free Apple and Android mobile phone apps are available that function similarly, such as InnoCaption+, eyeHear, and Hamilton Captel.

Explore Additional Resources for Individuals with Hearing Loss

There’s no use to use the excuse that you can’t hear the phone ring. Your hearing health professional may have additional tips to help you hear the phone ring, as well as other resources to help you manage daily living with hearing loss. For more information on Lexie Hearing, Lexie Lumen and how we can help, visit our website or contact us today.

Image of post writer Melissa Thompson.

Written by Melissa Thompson

MSc Advanced Audiology; BA Speech and Hearing Therapy

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