Factsheet on Hearing Impairment
Getting around Hearing loss with technology
Some people find some features of a computer difficult to access because they require you to hear
sounds from the PC. Microsoft windows has some features to help overcome this.
Windows provides settings for using visual cues to replace sounds in many programs.
You can adjust these settings on the Use text or visual alternatives for sounds page in the Ease of Access
1. Open the Use text or visual alternatives for sounds page by clicking the Start button, clicking
Control Panel, clicking Ease of Access, clicking Ease of Access Center, and then clicking Use text
or visual alternatives for sounds.
2. Select the options that you want to use:
Turn on visual notifications for sounds.
This option sets sound notifications to run when you log on to Windows. Sound notifications replace
system sounds with visual cues, such as a flash on the screen, so that system alerts are noticeable even
when they're not heard. You can also choose how you want sound notifications to warn you.
Turn on text captions for spoken dialog.
This option causes Windows to display text captions in place of sounds to indicate that activity is
happening on your computer (for example, when a document starts or finishes printing).
Adjusting sound properties
The quickest way to change the volume for your computer speakers is to click the Speakers button in
the notification area of the taskbar, and then move the sliders up or down to increase or decrease the
After you open the Speaker volume, click Mixer if you want to separately control the volume of your
speakers and other sound devices or programs using the Volume Mixer.
Enhancing access to technology
Induction loops and Infrared systems
These systems help people with hearing loss by reducing the impact of background noise. For example,
you could use a loop to hear your television or Car CD/Radio more clearly. You can also set up a personal
loop with a microphone to help you hear conversations in noisy places. In shops, a loop or infrared
system can help you hear salesmen more clearly.
An induction loop is a cable that goes around the listening area. This transmits the sound signal to you in
the form of a magnetic field, which can be picked up by most hearing aids – so long as they have a loop
(T) setting – and by loop listening aids. You can adjust your hearing aids or loop listener for volume in
the usual way.
Any number of people can use a loop installed in a room as long as their hearing aids are set to the ‘loop
(T) setting’, or they are using loop listeners.
If you can’t connect your loop system directly to your TV etc, you can use a microphone to pick up sound
from the TV set's loudspeaker. These systems mean that if you’re with a person who is hearing you can
set the TV volume to a level that is comfortable for them and then make the sound louder for you by
adjusting the volume on your loop system.
Normally, a loop system cannot give stereo sound. If this is important, you could consider using an
An infrared system consists of a transmitter and a listening receiver. Sound is fed to the transmitter in
the same way as with a loop system – either by a direct electrical connection or via a microphone. It is
then transmitted to you as invisible infrared light.
To hear sound you need to use an infrared receiver.
Several infrared systems can be used at the same time in rooms next to each other and so they are
suitable for confidential meetings. They provide high-quality sound. Stereo versions are available
Infrared systems are fairly easy to set up. You need to connect a small infrared transmitter to the sound
source. For the best results, you should try to position the transmitter so that nothing gets in the way of
the infrared light on its way to your infrared receiver.
Amplifiers and listening equipment
Listening equipment ‘amplifies’ sound (makes it louder) so you can hear conversations:
1. at home or in your car
2. on your phone or mobile phone
3. at meetings and lectures
4. on the television, radio or hi-fi.
You can use listening equipment whether or not you wear hearing aids. The type of equipment and the
accessory you choose will depend on the level of your hearing loss.
If you have mild to moderate hearing loss, you can use listening equipment with a built-in microphone.
This can help you hear conversation when talking to someone who is less than two meters away from
Cordless listening equipment
You may find cordless listening equipment useful if you like to wander or move whilst listening. Cordless
listening equipment includes:
1. cordless infrared headphones
2. cordless FM headphones
3. radio and infrared listening equipment.
Choosing a mobile phone with hearing loss
When choosing your mobile phone, you need to think about the following
Size and Form
This is all about how the phone feels to you as a user. Think about how small you want your mobile
phone to be. Although a smaller phone may be easier to carry around and may be very fashionable it
will come with smaller controls and display, which may not work well if you have large hands and
fingers. Similarly touch screens may be popular, but do you prefer a traditional key that you can feel to a
glass surface ?
For many people, especially older users, good-sized keys, with clearly labeled keys and a large, clear
screen and simple functions make phones easier to use. You may prefer one with a colour screen as this
makes the menu options easier to understand and use. You will find phones with keys on their front,
those that open in a ‘clamshell’ design and others where the keypad slides from beneath the screen. Try
out different designs to see which suits you best.
Volume and sound quality
It is vital that you can easily hold a conversation on the phone. Volume and sound quality vary widely
between models, so when you are in a shop, ask if you can make a call on more than one phone to allow
you to compare their performance. Be sure that you are happy with the volume and sound clarity before
You can usually adjust the volume on your mobile phone so you can hear what someone is saying more
easily. With some models this means taking the phone away from your ear, adjusting the volume then
listening again, missing some of the conversation. However, if the phone has volume controls on its side
then you can adjust the volume while speaking or listening. This is a good feature which many people
find very useful.
However, problems with hearing phone conversations are often more to do with sound quality than
volume, so you might find that increasing the volume does not help.
Compatibility with your hearing aid
If you wear a hearing aid, check whether you can use the mobile phone you want with it.
Most mobile phones cause interference when used with hearing aids, so it is important to check. At
present, there are some mobile phones which work really well when set to ‘T’.
Most modern mobiles have a speakerphone allowing you to use the phone hands free and at high
volume. Many people with a hearing loss find this feature useful, but be aware that your calls won’t be
private and the volumes can be very loud indeed. Mobile phones vary greatly in their speakerphone
performance and often, high speakerphone volume comes at a price of poor sound quality and
noticeable sound distortion. So choose wisely and do try them out in the shop if possible.
Bluetooth wireless technology
Many mobile phones now have Bluetooth wireless technology which allows products to communicate
with each other. It will allow you to use your mobile with a Bluetooth headset or neck loop, making it
easier to use the phone if you wear hearing aids.
Another useful feature to look out for is ‘predictive texting’, which ‘guesses’ the word you want and can
make SMS text messaging easier and faster.
Tactile feedback on controls
If you are profoundly deaf, controls with good tactile feedback can be another useful feature. These
keys are designed such that you can feel a definite ‘click’ when you operate them properly.
Access to video
How to use captions
Many films released on DVD have subtitles. Some DVDs have subtitles especially for people who are
deaf. These describe a particular noise or the type of music playing, so it is easier for you to follow the
film. Check at the back of the DVD box to see what subtitles are available.
How to access subtitles on DVDs
When you play a DVD, an introduction menu will usually appear on screen, showing the film’s title. If
subtitles are available, select the ‘subtitles’ or ‘languages’ option before you play the film. Another
menu may appear if there are subtitles in more than one language. However, ‘bonus’ material is often
not subtitled. You may also find the website www.dvd-subtitles.com useful. It gives detailed subtitling
information for many popular DVD releases.
How to create captions
There are several free Web-based tools you can use to create captions for your streaming videos, all of
which have their own particular features and limitations. For example, dotSub is an excellent tool for
captioning Flash videos hosted such as those on YouTube, It is very easy to use and includes
If you prefer to create the caption files on your computer there are a range of programs to help you.
MAGpie, is widely used and is free, and will allow you to create both a caption file and a description
soundtrack, which can be incorporated with your video to make it accessible to viewers who are blind or
visually impaired. You can find extensive and easy-to-follow MAGpie documentation at NCAM’s Web
If you are creating captions it is important to follow some simple guidelines
The captions should be
(1) synchronized and appear at approximately the same time as the audio is available;
(2) verbatim when time allows, or as close as possible;
(3) equivalent and equal in content; and
(4) accessible and readily available to those who need or want them.
The most important thing about captions and subtitles is that, when they appear on the screen, they are
in an easy-to-read format. Good captions adhere to the following guidelines when possible:
1. Captions appear on-screen long enough to be read.
2. It is preferable to limit on-screen captions to no more than two lines.
3. Captions are synchronized with spoken words.
4. Speakers should be identified when more than one person is on-screen or when the speaker is
5. Punctuation is used to clarify meaning.
6. Spelling is correct throughout the production.
7. Sound effects are written when they add to understanding.
8. All actual words are captioned, regardless of language or dialect.
9. Use of slang and accent is preserved and identified.
Sources of Information
RNID Factsheets: http://www.rnid.org.uk/information_resources/factsheets/
Microsoft Enable: http://www.microsoft.com/enable