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Assistive Devices and Technology

There's a wide variety of devices and technologies available for those with hearing loss. Some examples:

This page attempts to give you a little information about the major technologies used and where you can obtain them.

IP Relay and Video Relay Services

What Are They?

IP (Internet Protocol) Relay is, in many ways, much like using a TTY and regular relay operator to call hearing people. Instead of a TTY, however, the Deaf or Hard of Hearing person use a computer, the Internet, and web browser to contact the IP relay operator, who in turn, calls and voices to hearing people and types back the responses from the hearing person which can then be viewed on Deaf or Hard of Hearing person's computer.

Video Relay Service (VRS) provides deaf people a way to use American Sign Language when making phone calls to hearing people, instead of using a TTY. To use it, the Deaf person makes the call (using their computer) through a video relay service, which provides a Video Interpreter to relay the call to the hearing person (or vice versa). For equipment, the deaf person must have three things: a computer, a low-cost web camera, and a high speed Internet connection (such as DSL or cable modem). Communication is thus performed in a very natural, conversational way that many Deaf are finding to be a wonderful alternative to TTY communication. See the list of Video Relay links for more info.

How VRS Works

Web cameras at both end of the communication link provide the means for capturing and viewing the ASL being signed back and forth between the Deaf person and the Video Interpreter (VI). Using web browser software (like Internet Explorer) on the computer to go to a VRS web site, the Deaf person signs in and enters the number to call on the VRS web page form. The VRS interpreter then places the call and the VI watches the ASL coming into the VI's computer from the web camera attached to the Deaf person's computer. The VI voices that communication to the hearing person and, in turn, signs back to the Deaf person what the hearing person says.

Some service providers also provide alternatives to standard VRS calls, such as video relay to Instant Messenger (IM) products like AOL Instant Messenger (AOL IM). Again, the Deaf person navigates to the VRS web site, enters the phone number, but instead of voicing the ASL being signed to him/her by the Deaf person, the VI types that to the person being called and sends it via IM.

Another alternative is via VideoPhone (VP) relay to TV, in which you attach a VP to your TV and communicate with the VI to make the call you want to make.

Audio Induction Loops

What Are They?

An audio loop is a wire loop, or thin loop pad, attached to an amplifier. It creates a magnetic field that broadcasts sound in pure, undistorted form, directly to people who are within the loop and have a hearing aid containing a telecoil. The telecoil is familiar as the method used to make it easier for a hearing aid user to use a telephone.

More and more, hearing aids are becoming understood not only as microphone amplifiers but as personalized in-the-ear loudspeakers. People are equipping their TV rooms and cars with an audio loop to broadcast pure sound directly into both ears via their own hearing aids. The sound is "personally customized" by their hearing aids. You now can even hear your telephone in both ears!

For more information on audio induction loops:

Tele-typewriters (TTYs)

What Are They?

TTYs are devices that enable Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Speech Impaired individuals to communicate with each other and hearing people via the telephone system. Similar in appearance to an electronic typewriter with a display screen, TTYs transmit and receive electronic signals that the receiving TTY converts to text and prints it on the TTY display screen. The display screen size varies from about 20 to 40 characters or more, depending on the TTY.

If you're a hearing person, but don't have a TTY and need to talk to someone who does, you can use the Relay Service to call them, or, in some cases, use your computer to call the individual. Some TTYs can communicate with computers (if the proper transmission mode is used and the computer user has a modem). Can I use a regular computer modem to call a TTY? - this to find out more.

More information about TTY to computer communication is listed below.

Check out these FAQs (frequently asked questions) on TTYs:

Various directories are available to help you find TTY phone numbers:

VideoTTY Videophones - combines a camcorder, television, and touch-tone phone (or TTY) to deliver full-color, adjustable-quality video and audio over standard telephone lines. Now you can use sign language to communicate by phone!

TTY Manufacturers

Note: TTYs manufactured by these companies are available at a variety of outlets (some are listed below).

Ultratec, Inc.
6442 Normandy Lane
Madison, WI 53719
(608) 273-4396 V/TTY
Weitbrecht Communications
2716 Ocean Park Blvd, Suite 1007
Santa Monica, CA 90405
800-233-9130 v/tty
Krown Manufacturing, Inc.
3408 Indale Rd.
Fort Worth, TX 76116
Voice: (817) 738-2485
TTY/TDD: (817) 738-8993
Fax: (817) 738-1970
NXi Communications, Inc.

Phone-TTY - manufacturer and retailer of TTY products. Also sells other products for deaf and hard of hearing.

Cochlear Implants

What Are They?

Cochlear Implants are surgically implanted devices placed under the skin behind the ear. They're designed to provide some measure of hearing to the individual with profound neural-sensural hearing loss. The list of those eligible for implants has grown as the technology has been used on a wider variety of hearing loss types, from children with some or no hearing to adults who have been deaf all their lives. Some feel that they are considered practical on only those individuals for which normal hearing aids provide no auditory clues. Generally, only one implant is performed, due to cost and effectiveness.

Performance of cochlear implants vary with the individual and the type of implant used. Some find them to be very effective, providing the individual with the ability to distinguish complex sounds, such as music or phone conversations. For others, they provide enough auditory clues so as to help the individual understand speech in one on one situations. Still others find them useful only for assisting in speech-reading.

For more information on cochlear implants:

Below are some manufacturers of cochlear implants:

Advanced Bionics Corporation
Maker of the Clarion cochlear implant
12740 San Fernando Road
Sylmar, CA 91342
800/678-3575 TTY TOLL-FREE
800/678-2575 VOICE TOLL-FREE
818/362-7588 Voice
818/362-5069 FAX
AllHear, Inc.
Maker of the AllHear single channel cochlear implant
Post Office Box 330
Aurora, Oregon 97002
503/678-1085 Voice
503/678-1030 FAX
Cochlear Corporation
Maker of the Nucleus 22 and 24 cochlear implants
61-Inverness Drive East
Englewood, CO 80112
V: 1-800-523-5798 or 303-790-9010
Maker of COMBI 40+ and Tempo+ models of cochlear implants
FĂĽrstenweg 77a
A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria
phone +43-512-288889 Voice
43-512/29-33-81 Fax
MED-EL Corporation (North America)
2222 East Highway 54,
Beta Building Suite 180
Durham, North Carolina 27713
Tel: +1-919-572-2222
Fax: +1-919-484-9229
Toll Free: (888) MED-EL-CI (633-3524)

Cell Phone, Pager and Other Wireless Device Distributors

Fuse Communications - specializes in selling wireless communications (such as the Sidekick, Blackberry, and Treo) for both business and individuals with hearing loss.

Garth Mobile(sidekick pagers) - Sells the T-Mobile Sidekick - wireless communication that allows Internet browsing, e-mail, AOL Instant Messenger™, two-way text messaging and fun features such as mobile snapshots and games. The T-Mobile Sidekick is a Fun, easy to use, "go mobile and stay connected" type of device.

NotePage, Inc.- sells inexpensive software for sending SMS and pager messages.

Wynd Communications - provides wireless communication services and devices for two-way text messaging and email. Devices they sell include the RIM950 and 850, Motorola T900, Sidekick (color and B/W). Products at

Other Assistive Devices

Advanced Computing Topics

Where Can I Learn More About, Buy, Rent, or Borrow Assistive Devices?

In Washington State

Outside of Washington State


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