Do you know that sinking feeling when you realize that you’ve missed someone’s call? Did they mean to call, was it a pocket dial, will they phone back, or do you now need to call them? With hearing loss, this happens even more frequently. The best way to stop this from happening is to hear the phone ring. Here are some tips for you.
Why are some phones more difficult to hear than others?
Each phone has a default setting for its ringing volume and sound. It can be soft or 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. Your environment also plays a role in how well you hear your phone; for instance, a low-pitched ringtone in a very noisy environment will likely be drowned out.
What is the difference between a landline ringtone and a cell phone ringtone?
Landlines typically have a very standard ringtone made up of two or three frequencies that, in North America, generally have the pattern of two seconds ringing–four seconds quiet. A cell phone has more ringtone options, with different tunes and rhythms, that can be set based on your preference. When a landline rings, unless you have cordless phones elsewhere in the house, it is easy to miss the call if you are on the other side of the house, or outside. A cell phone is significantly more convenient in this way in that its portability means you need never be far away from it and so you are more likely to hear it ringing.
What can someone with hearing loss do to hear their landline or cell phone ring?
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.
Other landline options
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 vibration 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
Multiple downloadable cell phone apps will give your phone an extra loud ringtone. Just type in ‘super loud ringtone’ in your iPhone’s App Store or Android’s Play Store search bars.
If you’re worried a super loud ringtone will bother those around you, the easiest option with mobile phones is to activate the vibrate function (generally found under sound settings). Even if the phone is on silent, if it is on your person, you will be able to feel a call coming through.
Later Android and iPhone models also have wonderful options specifically for people with hearing impairments. 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.
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 most low-tech solution is to increase the volume of your calls or listen over the loudspeaker. However, this can distort that sound and make it even less intelligible.
The oldest technology involves a telecoil in hearing aids. 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 her 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. In a custom in-the-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.
For people with severe to profound hearing loss who may still struggle on the phone, there are captioned telephone options whereby whatever the person you are speaking to is saying, is virtually instantly transcribed into words that appear on the phone’s screen through voice recognition software. This technology comes in landlines and cell phone apps.
In the United States, people with hearing impairment can get a captioned landline free through 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 with adjustable font sizes to read the conversation. Some even have the option to adjust the sound of the phone based on your audiogram so that the phone’s 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.
What ringtones work the best?
The ideal ringtone for you will depend on the configuration and degree of your 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.
Are there special ringtones available for people with hearing loss?
There are extra loud ringtones designed for people with hearing loss, as mentioned earlier. Alternatively, you could make your own, based on your hearing preferences. Apps that allow one to do this include Ringtones for iPhone!, Ringtone Designer, Ringdroid, and Audiko.