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Telephone Accommodation Is A Primary Consideration For Workers Unable To Hear Clearly

For the workers with normal hearing, being able to use the telephone at work is seldom an issue. However, for the worker unable to hear clearly or to hear at all, using the phone to take accurate information, or place an emergency call, can be an issue. A worker who is hard of hearing may find great satisfaction when an amplifier is added to the receiver of a standard phone or with an amplifier that replaces the existing receiver of the phone.

To Improve Hearing On The Telephone, Many Types Of Assistive Devices Are Available:

Amplified Telephone: Amplified telephones with frequency response selections can help the person with moderate to severe hearing disability. These systems are more costly (usually several hundred dollars) and may not work with multi-line phone systems.

Handsets With Built-In Amplifier: Telephone receiver handsets with built-in amplifiers are commonly selected by individuals needing phone amplification. They can provide a 10 to 18 dB gain (usually sufficient for a moderate to severe hearing loss) and attach by replacing the existing handset on the standard telephone. Should the user have a hearing aid with a telephone (or "T") switch, the "T" switch can enhance the effect of this type of amplification, by increasing the gain as well as eliminating background noise. This type of telephone amplifier cannot be used when dialing is done from the handset. Some amplified handsets will accommodate multi-channel phone lines; others will not.

"In-Line" Amplifier: Small, inexpensive "in-line" amplifiers give minimal amplification, but are often adequate for the user with a mild to moderate hearing disability. This type of amplifier is connected between the body of the standard telephone and the receiver. Depending on the make of amplifier, this system may or may not accommodate multi-line phones. To use this system, dialing may not be done from the handset. The "in-line" amplifier can be battery operated or powered by the telephone.

Portable Amplifier: Another inexpensive, but often completely adequate phone amplifier is the portable amplifier that attaches to the receiver of the standard telephone. The portable phone amplifier can be easily carried in a pocket or purse and is powered by an AA battery, or a hearing aid battery. This type of phone amplifier is also useful for the person with a mild to moderate hearing disability. It can be used on single or multi-line telephones.

Text Telephones (TTY) also known as Telecommunication Devices for Deaf (TDD): For the late deafened individual, unable to hear on the telephone, Text Telephones (TTY) are available. A TTY is a modem that looks much like a small typewriter and is used with or instead of a telephone. A visual display of the conversation is produced rather than voice or auditory signals, by tones emitted through phone wires. The "sender" types the message. The message is displayed on a light emitting diode (LED) screen at the receiving end and may also be printed on paper if the Text Telephone has a printer option.

A Text Telephone (or compatible telecommunication equipment such as a computer with a modem) is required at both ends of the telephone conversation. Some models of the Text Telephones have a paper printer, automatic answering machine, direct dialing from the key board of the Text Telephone with a direct-connect feature which allows the user to by-pass using a standard telephone in unison with the Text Telephone. Less expensive Text Telephone models simply display the message on a small LED screen, as the message moves from right to left across a 20 character display panel.

Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS): When a Text Telephone call is placed and no Text Telephone is at the destination of the phone call, a Telecommunications Relay Service is necessary, and available through all states as mandated by the Americans With Disabilities Act. A relay service allows a person with a Text Telephone to place a phone call to a person who does not have a Text Telephone, and vice versa. When a phone call is placed through a relay service by someone using a Text Telephone, an intervening operator is contacted and given the name and telephone number of the person to be called. The operator reads this information on a Text Telephone screen. The operator then calls the person for whom the call is intended. The operator speaks or "voices" the Text Telephone message to the receiver. The operator to the person originating the phone call then types this person's verbal response on the Text Telephone.

Uniphone: A uniphone is a combination telephone and Text Telephone with voice carryover (VCO) capabilities. Other features may include visual flasher and amplified handset.

Voice Carryover: For Text Telephone users who choose to speak their message rather than type it out on the Text Telephone with the relay operator speaking for them, there is the Voice Carry Over option within the Telecommunications Relay Service. This speeds up the conversation considerably and adds a more personal flavor to the message. It also encourages use of a Text Telephone by persons who would not use one previously since Voice Carry Over eliminates the need for typing skills.

For More Information:

Rehabilitation Research and Training Center for Persons Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
University of Arkansas
4601 West Markham Street
Little Rock, AR 72205
(501) 686-9691

Rehabilitation Research and Training Center for Persons Who are Hard of Hearing or Late Deafened
California School of Professional Psychology-San Diego (CSPP-SD)
6160 Cornerstone Court East
San Diego, CA 92121-3725
(619) 623-2777