Assistive technology

Assistive listening devices

Assistive listening devices include a large variety of devices designed to improve audibility in specific listening situations. Some are designed for use with hearing aids or cochlear implants, while others are designed to be used alone. Many that are used in conjunction with hearing aids require a telecoil (T-switch). Some are intended for personal use, others for use group use. Among other things, they include infrared systems, FM systems, wired devices like the Pocket Talker, and more.

  • • General Information: "Assistive Equipment and Technology" fact sheet
  • • For assessment and consultation about the equipment needs of a specific deaf, hard of hearing or deafblind person, contact the DHHS office nearest you.
  • • Where can I purchase assistive listening devices? Contact DHHS nearest you.
  • • Contact DHHS for resources that may offer financial assistance for assistive listening devices.
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    Related links:

  • WROCC Outreach Site, Western Oregon University – Demystifying Assistive Listening Devices
  • Hearing Loss Association of America
  • Telephone technology

    TTYs (sometimes referred to as TDD)

    A TTY is a small machine with a keyboard and a visual display screen that allows people to communicate with each other over the telephone lines by typing and reading their conversations. With appropriate software and equipment, computers can function as TTYs. Portable and wireless TTYs are also available.

  • • General information: "TTY Guide" fact sheet
  • • For information on where to buy TTYs and TTY repairs in your area contact the office nearest you
  • Amplified phones

    There are numerous telephones that have built-in amplifiers that vary in range from 25 to 55 decibels. Many of these telephones have variable tone selectors and loud ringers. For more information on amplified phones and louder ringers, refer to the Assistive Equipment and Technology fact sheet.

    Voice carryover phones (VCO)

    VCO technology is for people who are unable to hear over the telephone but prefer to use their voice to communicate. VCO telephone calls must be made through a relay service. This connection allows the person with the hearing loss to speak to the other party and read their incoming message on the telephone’s display screen. There is also a portable VCO device, which can be attached to cell phones, pay phones, or cordless phones. Refer to the Assistive Equipment and Technology fact sheet for more information.

    Picture of woman using TTY.

    Telephone Equipment Distribution (TED) Program

    The TED Program provides telephone equipment to people who are deaf, hard of hearing, deafblind, or have a speech or physical disability and need adaptive equipment in order to use the phone. Available equipment includes TTYs, VCO phones, Captel, light flashing ring signalers, amplified phones and ringers, hands free speakerphones, and more. For more details, visit the TED Program web site. Individuals must meet income eligibility guidelines to qualify for assistance.

    If you don’t qualify for the TED Program

    A directory is available of venders that supply adaptive equipment for deaf, hard of hearing, deafblind, speech impaired and physically disabled individuals for purchase. To receive a copy of this or for information.

    Relay services

    Relay facilitates telephone calls between people with a hearing loss and persons that can hear. Relay options in Minnesota are listed below.

    Minnesota relay

    The Minnesota Relay uses specifically trained operators, or communications assistants (CAs), to link TTY/TDD users with hearing people using standard telephones. To place a call through the Minnesota Relay dial 7–1–1. More information about the Minnesota Relay is available on the Minnesota Department of Commerce web site.

    Video relay service

    This relay service, also operated by the Minnesota Relay, enables callers who use American Sign Language to "converse" with a video interpreter via a video link. The video interpreter then translates those signs into spoken language or text for communications with voice or TTY users. This new service allows American Sign Language users the opportunity to communicate using their native language over the traditional TTY relay service. For more information about Video Relay Service, visit the FCC VRS


    Captioning is the process for converting audio information into text and displaying the text on a screen or monitor. It provides important visual information to millions of people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, including access to television programs, film, CD/DVDs, and live events. It can also serve to assist with improved fluency in the English language. The Federal Communications Commission has a variety of rules and procedures related to captioning, including requirements for emergency information to be accessible to individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing. The primary types of captions are: “closed captions,” which are visible only when selected, such as on a TV program, typically by choosing the captioning feature on the TV remote control; “open captions” are visible for all to see and do not require making a selection to activate; “real-time” refers to captioning provided simultaneously with a live presentation.

    Related links:

  • National Association for the Deaf: What is Captioning?
  • FCC Consumer facts on closed captioning.
  • Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Fact Sheet on Access to Emergency Information on Television.
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