Approximately 37.5 million U.S. adults have some trouble hearing. It is one of the more common disabilities in the United States, and accommodations for hearing loss or hearing-related disabilities are frequently requested in classrooms and workplaces. Hearing-related disabilities require significant lifestyle changes, especially in the context of cell phone usage.
Eighty-five percent of people now own a smartphone. Smartphones are ubiquitous tools nowadays. But did you know they can also be accessibility tools for people with hearing loss or hearing-related disabilities? It’s true! Let’s take a look at the features that make your smartphone an excellent accessibility tool for hearing-related disabilities.
Closed captions may seem insignificant, but they are a hugely important and often overlooked accessibility feature. They present the audio content as text for users who have hearing loss or other hearing-related disabilities. They have slowly become more mainstream, especially on sites like YouTube.
Many smartphones now offer built-in closed captioning. The Google Pixel offers live captioning on its devices, facilitating the transcription of everything from videos to phone calls. With just the tap of a button, you get live captions with no other settings needed. At the time of writing, Apple lacks live captioning as a standard feature, but they are beta testing this option on newer models of the iPhone.
For phones that don’t come with a native captioning function, there are apps you can download, like Live Transcribe. This app offers the same benefits of built-in captioning, helping improve accessibility. Simply download the app and set it up to get real-time transcripts wherever needed.
Live captioning and transcribing means you won’t have to worry if you’re watching a video that doesn’t include captions — your phone can generate them for you. Likewise, receiving an unexpected phone call won’t be so jarring. You can have it transcribed to know exactly what’s being said on the other end.
Both the iPhone and Google Pixel have built-in sound recognition, and it’s also part of the aforementioned Live Transcribe app. Sound recognition allows your phone to listen for and alert you to important sounds such as a baby crying, a dog barking, a doorbell, a fire alarm, and more.
The alerts can be set up as visual, flashing alerts that use the device’s flashlight. You can also set them to vibrate. You shouldn’t rely solely on these alerts for your safety, but they are a great tool for increasing independence. You can activate and configure sound recognition through your device’s accessibility settings.
Using your headphones, your smartphone can also filter surrounding sounds to improve the listening experience when watching videos, listening to music, or making a phone call. You may have to download an app, like the Sound Amplifier app for Android, or it may be built in, like when using compatible headsets on iOS devices.
AirPods facilitate ambient noise reduction and conversation boost, which reduces the amount of ambient noise and amplifies voices. Though it requires using AirPods during a conversation, these features can help significantly if you have hearing loss but don’t use a hearing aid. These features can be adjusted using your device.
Sound can have a significant impact as you go about your day. Your smartphone can be a very effective accessibility tool in mitigating distracting or detrimental sounds and, in doing so, be a very effective accessibility tool!
Using hearing aids with your phone
Most smartphones can connect to hearing aids using Bluetooth. This makes it possible to take calls and even listen to music and videos directly through hearing aids without the need for a separate headset. It depends on the brand of hearing aid, but most newer models include this function.
Apple has a “Made for iPhone” (MFi) program, which encourages developers to design their products with Apple’s specifications in mind. As a result, MFi-licensed devices are usually simple to connect to an iPhone and have additional settings you can adjust to your specific needs.
Even without this program, however, you can still use hearing aids with your smartphone. You just need to check the Hearing Aid Compatibility (HAC) rating to ensure your hearing aids can pair with your phone. If compatible, pair them using Bluetooth to enjoy the benefits.
Pairing your hearing aid with your phone means you can use your phone without worrying about interference between the two devices. It creates a more streamlined, accessible experience and lets you adjust volume, focus sound, and do more right from your phone.
Smartphones are excellent accessibility tools if you have hearing loss or hearing-related disabilities. From compatibility with hearing aids to captioning, there are many ways they can improve your quality of life. Explore how their accessibility options can help you!