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Smartphone Built-in Accessibility for Hearing Loss

Smartphones, both iPhone and Android operating systems, have come a long way in accessibility for those with hearing loss. There’s several great, built-in features on each phone with a variety of apps to make life easier. This post is only for quick reference. There are a few explanations and a link at the end of the sections to explore the features further.

*Note: Some features vary due to having an older phone, how often you update or the company you use.

iPhone Accessibility

Settings to Accessibility to Hearing

iPhone Accessibility with a picture of a sideways iPhone with an Apple icon.
Left picture shows a screenshot of the settings menu with accessibility near the middle.
Right picture shows the Accessibility menu for Hearing.
  • Hearing Devices – For older hearing aids & cochlear implants, connect your hearing devices via the MFI (Made For iPhone) option. New hearing aids don’t connect here, they connect directly via Bluetooth. You can turn on the “Hearing Aid Compatibility” here. For more information on program options, go HERE.
  • Hearing Control Center – Options for headphone accommodations, background sounds, live listen and conversation boost
  • Sound Recognition – Your phone will notify you for certain environmental sounds. Example: running water. (*This will run your phone battery down faster than usual because it’s constantly listening to your environment.)
  • RTT/TTY – It’s a ‘call’ via typing. Watch each other type and send messages in real-time. When this is turned on, it comes up on a menu as an option when you call someone.  Select “RTT/TTY Call”. The other person must have RTT turned on as well, otherwise select the “RTT/TTY Relay” option. 
  • Audio/Visual – Settings for headphone accommodations, background sounds, mono audio, headphone notification and balance. Also an option to turn on LED Flash for Alerts here. Your phone will flash with incoming phone calls and texts.
  • Subtitles & Captioning – This is for media such as YouTube videos. Select font colors and sizes for captions. 
  • Live Captions (Beta) –  ASR (automatic speech recognition) that will type out what’s being said. Also, you can turn on captions for FaceTime and for RTT here.

For more information on iPhone accessibility, go HERE.

Android Accessibility

Settings to Accessibility to Hearing Enhancements

Gold sparkly background.
Android Accessibility
Picture of a phone on it's side with the Android robot icon.
Short settings menu picture on the left under the sideways phone. 
Hearing Enhancements menu on the left top with and overlaid photo of the other menu options.
  • Real Time Text – It’s a ‘call’ via typing. Watch each other type back and forth. This sends  messages in real-time. 
  • Live Transcribe – an ASR (automatic speech recognition) app that will type out what’s being said. 
  • Live Caption – Captions for media, such as YouTube videos. 
  • Caption Preference – Select how you want to view your captions.
  • Sound Notifications – Your phone will notify you for certain environmental sounds. Example: running water. (*Note that this will run your smartphone battery down faster than usual.) 
  • Hearing Aid Support – May connect your hearing aids to your phone via Bluetooth. *Note: Older hearing aids may not connect with Android as well. If you’re getting new hearing aids, ask for hearing aids to have full functioning connectivity to your Android phone.
  • Amplify Ambient Sound – Turns your phone into a hearing device. It will filter noise and amplify speech, to some degree. 
  • Adapt Sound – Adjust hearing frequencies.
  • Mute All Sounds – This will mute all sounds from your phone.
  • Mono Audio – Some hearing loss apps will work better on the mono setting. If you’re only hearing through one earbud/hearing aid, try the “mono” setting.
  • Right/Left Balance – Does one ear hear worse, or better,  than the other ear? You can change the volume per ear to balance the sound. 

For more information on Android accessibility, go HERE.

Smartphone Apps

It’s impossible to list all the apps available for hearing loss. People have their preferences, ask your HoH community what they like. Try one, then another until you find the one that works best for you.  Here are some search terms you can use:

  • Hearing Aid Brand apps – Most hearing aids have an app now. There are many features inside the apps allowing you to ‘tweak’ the way you hear. You can choose different programs here and adjust how much environmental noise you hear while streaming. If you don’t already have an app on your phone, search your brand name with “hearing aid”. If you can’t connect, make an appointment with your audiologist to help you, or find out why you can’t connect.
  • Captioned Phone Calls” –  These apps are free, falling under the  Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) giving people with hearing loss equal access to phone calls. Learn more about Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS). Top apps for phone calls are InnoCaption, CaptionCall, Nagish, CaptionMate, Rogervoice and ClearCaptions.
  • Speech to Text” – You hear us say “ASR” all the time, it stands for Automatic Speech Recognition. These apps translate speech to text. If someone is wearing a mask and you can’t hear them, you can try using a speech-to-text app. It’s not perfect but it can be helpful. It depends on how noisy the environment is, how close your phone is to someone and whether or not you have good signal/WiFi. The main apps the HoH use are AVA, Otter, Live Transcribe. There are many more. Some have free monthly minutes, then a subscription fee for more. Other apps let people try it for a week free, then charge a subscription rate. Check the “Subscription Rate” and know how to turn it off before your free minutes are up.
  • Video Calls” – When you can see the person talking, you will ‘hear’ better. We recommend making sure captions are available for the video call. Google Meet has captions available with every call. There’s also Zoom, Skype and many other apps. Facetime is built-in with the iPhone.
Apps Worth Considering…
  • Emergency Alerts” –  Turn on alerts in your weather app for incoming weather.  Red Cross also has an emergency alert app. 
  • Other apps  – There are several “decibel meter” apps if you’re interested in how loud your environment is.  “Hearing Test” apps are also available if you want to see if your hearing has dropped. Note: This does not replace hearing tests by your audiologist or hearing instrument specialist. It’s there to give you an idea of what your hearing loss looks like.
What are your favorite apps to use with hearing loss? 

We’d love to hear what you are using. Technology changes fast with new apps coming out all the time. What we have listed here is a common list only. Leave us your list in the comments.

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