Telephones for Hearing-Impaired People
Copyright 1998-99 by Ronald B. Standler
Table of Contents
introduction and history
sources for telephone equipment
I have a severe hearing loss at frequencies above 1.5 kHz,
which makes it difficult for me to understand speech on a
conventional telephone. Because technology to ameliorate this
problem is a well-kept secret, I decided to post the information
that I have on the Internet, for sharing with others who may need it.
The electrical standards, as well as legal certification, of telephone
equipment is different for each country: therefore, the information in
this document applies only to the USA.
Prior to the breakup of the Bell System in the USA by Judge Greene in
1984, residential telephones in the USA were manufactured in the
USA by Western Electric, the manufacturing division of the Bell System.
On the bottom of each Western Electric telephone is the notice
"Bell System Property. Not for sale."
These telephones were leased to customers for a monthly rate.
For example, in 1979, I paid $ 1.50/month for a touch-tone telephone
and $ 1.87/month for an amplified handset.
The Western Electric equipment was designed to be extremely durable
and have a long lifetime. The Bell System could afford to produce
high-quality equipment because they had a monopoly and charged relatively
high fees. Suppose the Western Electric telephone had a life-time of
50 years, then the telephone company collected a total $ 900
of leasing fees from the customer during that time!
When the local telephone company sold me the Western Electric telephone
in August 1983, the price was only $ 55.
After the breakup of the Bell System around 1982, AT&T began selling
telephone equipment to customers. AT&T had retail telephone stores,
which were often located in shopping centers, in most cities in the USA.
The new AT&T telephones were of lower quality than the old Western Electric
telephones. However, one could purchase refurbished Western Electric
equipment from AT&T retail telephone stores, although they did not
advertise this fact.
In February 1996, AT&T closed all of their retail telephone stores.
On 1 Oct 1997, AT&T ceased selling telephones to the residential market.
The former AT&T multi-line telephones for business use
(e.g., Merlin System) are now sold by
I have tried a number of different models of telephones, but I have
found only two satisfactory models for me:
The Western Electric G6 handset does not function with modern
electronic telephones. There are at least two different models of AT&T
amplified handsets for use with modern electronic telephones, they are
not interchangeable. One must purchase the amplified handset
separately from the telephone. Sources for this equipment are given at
the end of this document.
- The traditional Western Electric model 2500 touch-tone telephone from the
1960s or 1970s, equipped with a Western Electric model G6
amplified handset, sometimes called a "volume control handset".
The amplifier is powered by current from the telephone line;
no batteries are needed.
I purchased a reconditioned Western Electric model 2500DMG desk
telephone with a new keypad but no handset in September 1998
at a cost of $19, and a reconditioned Western Electric G6 amplified handset
- The AT&T model 100 telephone equipped with the AT&T model K65A
"hearing amplification handset". The amplifier is powered by
two AAA batteries inside the handset. This telephone has a button
that automatically redials the last number that was entered on the keypad,
which is a handy feature. These two products are no longer available.
There are many electronic telephones with volume controls, but most
of them provide inadequate gain for hearing-impaired users.
These volume controls are a convenience for people with normal hearing,
not a feature for hearing-impaired users. Hearing-impaired people
should seek an amplifier with a maximum gain of at least 20 dB.
Another solution is to wear a behind-the-ear hearing aid that contains
a small coil of wire that acts as an antenna for the magnetic field from
some telephone earpieces. The user will need to switch the hearing aid
input from microphone to coil. Not all telephone handsets are compatible
with this kind of hearing aid.
AT&T and briefly in 1998 Philips
made a portable amplifier that attached to the
earpiece of the handset with an elastic strap. This amplifier is
powered by one AA battery. I carry one of these amplifiers plus a spare
battery in my suitcase, for use in hotel rooms.
sources for telephone equipment
Triad in Ohio
sells refurbished Western Electric G6 amplified handsets and
refurbished Western Electric telephones.
If you want a new, electronic telephone for
hearing-impaired users, then
I suggest that you consult with a local audiologist.
There are several ways to find an audiologist:
- some groups of physicians who specialize in otolaryngology
include an audiologist in their practice.
- you can visit the Speech & Hearing Clinic at a local university
that trains audiologists
- you can look in the Yellow Pages of your local telephone
book under "Hearing Aids" or "Audiologists".
The American Speech-Language-Hearing
audiologists with their certificate of clinical competence in
this page is at http://www.rbs0.com/tele.htm
created 4 Sep 1998, last revised 4 Oct 1999, deletion of dead links 7 Sep 2007
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