What are the Different Means of Communication for the Hearing Impaired?

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  • Written By: Emma G.
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2019
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People who are deaf or hard of hearing want to be able to communicate with the rest of the world. Sign language and lip reading have been used for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years as a method of communication for the hearing impaired. Modern technology has added several means of communication for the hearing impaired, including the telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), video relay, and closed captioning.

Today, millions of Americans use American Sign Language (ASL) as a means of communication for the hearing impaired. ASL classes are offered in schools across the country. The language uses hand and facial gestures to allow people to communicate without sound. ASL is really its own language, with unique syntax and grammar independent from spoken English.

Sign language works fine as a means of communication for the hearing impaired, but it cannot be used to talk over the phone. In the modern world it is possible to use video chat capabilities on cell phones and computers. Talking over a regular telephone line without video capabilities, however, requires special equipment.


Many deaf and hearing impaired people own a text telephone (TTY) or telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD). This small keyboard-like device allows the person to type the words he or she wants to say. The responses are shown on a small screen built into the TTY. Either the device plugs directly into the phone line or it has a place for the handset to rest, allowing transition through the normal mouthpiece and earpiece. The only drawback to the TTY is that both parties in the conversation must have one in order for the communication to work.

As most non-hearing impaired people do not own a TTY, other means of communication for the hearing impaired must be used to allow a phone conversation between a deaf person and a hearing person. To solve this issue, many telephone companies offer something called a telecommunications relay service.

These services can work in several ways. All involve an operator. In most cases, the hearing person speaks to the operator, who types the information into a TTY. The deaf person then types his or her responses. The operator then reads the responses to the hearing person. This is most often used for deaf people who have trouble with or cannot use verbal speech.

Another type of telecommunications relay service, called voice carry over, is used by deaf people who are able to speak. The hearing person speaks to the operator who types the words. The deaf person can then speak into the phone to answer. Another, less prevalent way of communication for the hearing impaired is the captioned telephone, which automatically types whatever the speaker is saying.



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Post 1

Finally the deaf are now on equal footing in real time communications thanks to the advancement in video communications.

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