Specialist equipment and resources for people with hearing loss or people who are d/Deaf
Many of the things we use in our homes such as doorbells, telephones, or alarms depend on sound to be effective. If you are deaf or hard of hearing there are some very good alternatives you can use that are based on things that you can see or can feel vibrate.
If your doctor thinks that a hearing aid would help you, you will be referred to a hospital audiology department where you can be tested and fitted with a hearing aid free of charge under the NHS. The servicing of the hearing aid and batteries are also free of charge.
If you buy a hearing aid privately, then you cannot get help from the NHS with the cost of buying or servicing it, or with the replacement batteries. If you buy privately, make sure the dispenser is registered under the Hearing Aid Council Act 1968.
There are many questions that you may have about hearing aids. The RNID website provides useful information and advice, including frequently asked questions and where to buy hearing aids privately.
Many DIY stores have a selection of doorbells, buzzers and chimes working on display so that you can try them out in the shop. Doorbells come in a wide variety of tones, tunes and volume - the important thing is to find one that suits your hearing.
You also need to think about the best place to put the doorbell - it may be best to put it where you spend most of your time. An extension bell may be useful in another room or upstairs.
You can also get 'extra-loud' doorbells. These are very loud so you may have to think about your friends or neighbours before installing one!
Portable bell units which you can carry from room to room are also available. Some also have a powerful flashing light.
There are also various systems available that let you know when someone is at the door or when the phone rings, that make all the lights in the house flash or dim. A qualified technician would need to install a system like this.
Telephones, textphones, faxes and emails
If you have difficulty hearing the telephone ring, you could try a loud extension bell or a different type of bell. Contact your telephone line supplier for information about the services they provide for people who have a hearing loss. Some companies supply extension bells on free loan, whereas others may charge.
If you are unable to hear a bell, a phone flash unit can be connected to the telephone line.
Talking on the phone
Telephones with speech volume/tone control are made by several manufacturers. If a telephone says it has an inductive coupler, this means it can be used with the T-switch of a hearing aid.
You can also buy a portable telephone amplifier to attach to other phones you may need to use.
There is equipment, such as neckloops, that can be used with some mobile phones. For more information, contact your mobile phone supplier or one of the specialist organisations. Mobile phones can also be used to send text messages.
Some mobile phones are not compatible with hearing aids and can cause interference. It is important that you try different mobile phones before buying one to find the most suitable one for you.
For people who need a visual telephone system, a range of textphones are available. Most of these can be plugged directly into your existing phone socket, but some may also need an electric socket.
A textphone replaces sound with a small screen on which messages can be typed and received. Some models also incorporate a conventional voicephone.
A textphone is mostly used to contact another textphone. At the moment a textphone user can only contact a voicephone using a relay service called TextDirect.
If you're using a textphone (sometimes called a Minicom) or you're calling someone from a standard telephone and think the person at the other end may have a textphone, Text Relay will connect you. It's a fully automated service so, when required, relay assistants provide a text-to-voice and voice-to-text translation service.'
More information on Text Relay
An alternative to a voice or textphone is a fax machine. Most organisations and services, such as doctors' surgeries and shops, can be contacted by fax.
You can email using a variety of different equipment, such as computers and mobile phones. Neither fax nor email should be relied on for urgent or emergency use because you cannot be sure that someone has picked up your message as soon as it has arrived.
Equipment for hearing the TV
Most of the equipment that can help you fully enjoy television programmes doesn't cut out the sound for other viewers. The volume on the television can be set to a suitable level for other family members and you can adjust the volume of your personal amplifier to a level that suits you.
There are portable amplifiers that can be plugged directly into your television or attached by a small microphone to the television speaker. You can also use them to listen to the radio or to a music system. Some portable amplifiers are designed so that you can use them for conversations or watching television. The main disadvantage of some portable amplifiers is that the lead that connects to the television could be a safety hazard. Infra-red or radio wave systems are an alternative to prevent this hazard.
If you wear a hearing aid, you may find a neckloop receiver useful, as it can be used in conjunction with a portable amplifier and you just switch your hearing aid to the 'T' position.
'Loop' systems can only be used by people who wear a hearing aid with a 'T' switch or a loop pick-up unit. Loop systems give good sound quality and are easy to use.
A loop is installed by connecting an amplifier to the television and tacking a wire around the room. If you tend to watch TV from one chair, you may prefer to have a loop pad, which removes the need for wire to be tacked around the room. The disadvantage of loop systems is that they pick up interference from other electrical sources or other people's loop systems.
Many television sets now have teletext which can be used to display subtitles for some television programmes. Programmes that are subtitled are marked S or T in newspaper or magazine listings. Subtitles appear at the bottom of the screen and do not interfere with the sound or picture quality. You can get the subtitles by pressing the text button on your remote control and then selecting page 888. Some cable, freeview and digital television channels offer subtitles which you can access in different ways and you should check that you know how to get subtitles with your provider. Subtitles are free.
There are mains and battery operated alarm clocks that can work with a light and/or a vibrating pad. Battery operated alarm clocks are similar to travel clocks. They can be placed directly under your pillow. There are also watches that have a vibrating alarm.
You can get equipment to let you know when your baby is crying. Many of these devices work in the same way as conventional baby alarms by transmitting sound, but at the same time they also display a flashing light. Some also have an optional vibrating pad.
Pagers link the devices in your home (such as the doorbell, the telephone, the smoke alarm etc) into a single system which alerts you when one of them is operating, and tells you which one it is. The pager can be carried in your pocket, clipped to a belt, or worn in a pager pouch.
The Sensory/Deaf Services Team can advise on the best type of equipment to meet your needs or you can visit equipment displays at a number of resource centres.
These are devices that are specially designed to let the person you are caring for call you when they need assistance. They work by using a flashing light, buzzer or vibrating pad.
There are also motion pads that can be placed on the floor next to a bed or doorway so that when it is stepped upon, it alerts the deaf/hard of hearing carer that the person is moving around/wandering. It is wired into the alerting equipment, usually a pager system.
Smoke alarms save lives. If you are unable to hear your smoke alarm when you are asleep or not wearing your hearing aid, then you need to think about other ways of being alerted to it. There are systems which have a powerful strobe light or a vibrating pillow pad.
Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service has written a useful leaflet telling you where you should locate smoke alarms in your home. Contact them on 023 8062 6809.
We may be able to loan you some equipment once you have had an assessment and provided you meet the criteria. The County Council is unable to help with payment for equipment, although sometimes they can advise on alternative sources of funding, such as charities.
Suppliers of equipment
You can buy items straight away if you want, but you may like to ask the Sensory Services Team for advice before you buy. There are also independent organisations that offer advice and working displays so that you can try things out before you decide. It is best to phone beforehand to discuss what you want and/or make an appointment.
- Bio Acoustics Ltd - Tel: 01582 431000
- Connevans - Tel: 01737 247 571
- Deaf Awareness Technology
- Hearing Concern Link
- Hearing Products International Ltd
- Royal Hampshire County Hospital Audiology Department - Tel: 01962 863535
Royal National Institute for the Deaf (RNID) -Tel 01733 361199, Textphone 01733 238020, Fax 01733 361161
Equipment for schools and colleges
If you represent a school or college and need specialist equipment for a student, responsibility lies with the Children's Services Department to provide and purchase your own equipment. Equipment is available to buy from the companies mentioned above.
What am I entitled to?
The local authority is here to help everyone understand their needs and, if required, provide an assessment.
For more information about what help you are entitled to, please see the Who can get help from Adult Services web pages.
Try our online self assessment