Assistive Devices for People with Hearing, Voice, Speech, or Language Disorders (2023)

What are assistive devices?

The terms assistive device or assistive technology can refer to any device that helps a person with hearing loss or a voice, speech, or language disorder to communicate. These terms often refer to devices that help a person to hear and understand what is being said more clearly or to express thoughts more easily. With the development of digital and wireless technologies, more and more devices are becoming available to help people with hearing, voice, speech, and language disorders communicate more meaningfully and participate more fully in their daily lives.

What types of assistive devices are available?

Health professionals use a variety of names to describe assistive devices:

  • Assistive listening devices (ALDs) help amplify the sounds you want to hear, especially where there’s a lot of background noise. ALDs can be used with a hearing aid or cochlear implant to help a wearer hear certain sounds better.
  • Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices help people with communication disorders to express themselves. These devices can range from a simple picture board to a computer program that synthesizes speech from text.
  • Alerting devices connect to a doorbell, telephone, or alarm that emits a loud sound or blinking light to let someone with hearing loss know that an event is taking place.

What types of assistive listening devices are available?

Several types of ALDs are available to improve sound transmission for people with hearing loss. Some are designed for large facilities such as classrooms, theaters, places of worship, and airports. Other types are intended for personal use in small settings and for one-on-one conversations. All can be used with or without hearing aids or a cochlear implant. ALD systems for large facilities include hearing loop systems, frequency-modulated (FM) systems, and infrared systems.

Assistive Devices for People with Hearing, Voice, Speech, or Language Disorders (1)

This logo informs people that a public area is looped.

Hearing loop (or induction loop) systems use electromagnetic energy to transmit sound. A hearing loop system involves four parts:

  • A sound source, such as a public address system, microphone, or home TV or telephone
  • An amplifier
  • A thin loop of wire that encircles a room or branches out beneath carpeting
  • A receiver worn in the ears or as a headset

Amplified sound travels through the loop and creates an electromagnetic field that is picked up directly by a hearing loop receiver or a telecoil (see sidebar), a miniature wireless receiver that is built into many hearing aids and cochlear implants. To pick up the signal, a listener must be wearing the receiver and be within or near the loop. Because the sound is picked up directly by the receiver, the sound is much clearer, without as much of the competing background noise associated with many listening environments. Some loop systems are portable, making it possible for people with hearing loss to improve their listening environments, as needed, as they proceed with their daily activities. A hearing loop can be connected to a public address system, a television, or any other audio source. For those who don’t have hearing aids with embedded telecoils, portable loop receivers are also available.

What’s a telecoil?

A telecoil, also called a t-coil, is a coil of wire that is installed inside many hearing aids and cochlear implants to act as a miniature wireless receiver. It was originally designed to make sounds clearer to a listener over the telephone. It also is used with a variety of other assistive listening devices, such as hearing loop (or induction loop) systems, FM systems, infrared systems, and personal amplifiers.

The telecoil works by receiving an electromagnetic signal from the hearing loop and then turning it back into sound within the hearing aid or cochlear implant. This process eliminates much of the distracting background noise and delivers sound customized for one’s own need. For people who are hard-of-hearing who do not have a telecoil-equipped hearing aid or cochlear implant, loop receivers with headsets can provide similar benefits but without the customized or “corrected sound” feature that matches one’s hearing loss pattern.

Many cochlear implants have a telecoil built into the sound processor, or can use an external telecoil accessory with both hearing aid compatible telephones and public loop systems. A simple switch or programming maneuver performed by the user activates this function.

See the NIDCD fact sheet Hearing Aids for more information.

FM systems use radio signals to transmit amplified sounds. They are often used in classrooms, where the instructor wears a small microphone connected to a transmitter and the student wears the receiver, which is tuned to a specific frequency, or channel. People who have a telecoil inside their hearing aid or cochlear implant may also wear a wire around the neck (called a neckloop) or behind their aid or implant (called a silhouette inductor) to convert the signal into magnetic signals that can be picked up directly by the telecoil. FM systems can transmit signals up to 300 feet and are able to be used in many public places. However, because radio signals are able to penetrate walls, listeners in one room may need to listen to a different channel than those in another room to avoid receiving mixed signals. Personal FM systems operate in the same way as larger scale systems and can be used to help people with hearing loss to follow one-on-one conversations.

Infrared systems use infrared light to transmit sound. A transmitter converts sound into a light signal and beams it to a receiver that is worn by a listener. The receiver decodes the infrared signal back to sound. As with FM systems, people whose hearing aids or cochlear implants have a telecoil may also wear a neckloop or silhouette inductor to convert the infrared signal into a magnetic signal, which can be picked up through their telecoil. Unlike induction loop or FM systems, the infrared signal cannot pass through walls, making it particularly useful in courtrooms, where confidential information is often discussed, and in buildings where competing signals can be a problem, such as classrooms or movie theaters. However, infrared systems cannot be used in environments with too many competing light sources, such as outdoors or in strongly lit rooms.

Personal amplifiers are useful in places in which the above systems are unavailable or when watching TV, being outdoors, or traveling in a car. About the size of a cell phone, these devices increase sound levels and reduce background noise for a listener. Some have directional microphones that can be angled toward a speaker or other source of sound. As with other ALDs, the amplified sound can be picked up by a receiver that the listener is wearing, either as a headset or as earbuds.

What types of augmentative and alternative communication devices are available for communicating face-to-face?

The simplest AAC device is a picture board or touch screen that uses pictures or symbols of typical items and activities that make up a person’s daily life. For example, a person might touch the image of a glass to ask for a drink. Many picture boards can be customized and expanded based on a person’s age, education, occupation, and interests.

Keyboards, touch screens, and sometimes a person’s limited speech may be used to communicate desired words. Some devices employ a text display. The display panel typically faces outward so that two people can exchange information while facing each other. Spelling and word prediction software can make it faster and easier to enter information.

Speech-generating devices go one step further by translating words or pictures into speech. Some models allow users to choose from several different voices, such as male or female, child or adult, and even some regional accents. Some devices employ a vocabulary of prerecorded words while others have an unlimited vocabulary, synthesizing speech as words are typed in. Software programs that convert personal computers into speaking devices are also available.

What augmentative and alternative communication devices are available for communicating by telephone?

For many years, people with hearing loss have used text telephone or telecommunications devices, called TTY or TDD machines, to communicate by phone. This same technology also benefits people with speech difficulties. A TTY machine consists of a typewriter keyboard that displays typed conversations onto a readout panel or printed on paper. Callers will either type messages to each other over the system or, if a call recipient does not have a TTY machine, use the national toll-free telecommunications relay service at 711 to communicate. (See Telecommunications Relay Services for more information.) Through the relay service, a communications assistant serves as a bridge between two callers, reading typed messages aloud to the person with hearing while transcribing what’s spoken into type for the person with hearing loss.

With today’s new electronic communication devices, however, TTY machines have almost become a thing of the past. People can place phone calls through the telecommunications relay service using almost any device with a keypad, including a laptop, personal digital assistant, and cell phone. Text messaging has also become a popular method of communication, skipping the relay service altogether.

Another system uses voice recognition software and an extensive library of video clips depicting American Sign Language to translate a signer’s words into text or computer-generated speech in real time. It is also able to translate spoken words back into sign language or text.

Finally, for people with mild to moderate hearing loss, captioned telephones allow you to carry on a spoken conversation, while providing a transcript of the other person’s words on a readout panel or computer screen as back-up.

What types of alerting devices are available?

Alerting or alarm devices use sound, light, vibrations, or a combination of these techniques to let someone know when a particular event is occurring. Clocks and wake-up alarm systems allow a person to choose to wake up to flashing lights, horns, or a gentle shaking.

Visual alert signalers monitor a variety of household devices and other sounds, such as doorbells and telephones. When the phone rings, the visual alert signaler will be activated and will vibrate or flash a light to let people know. In addition, remote receivers placed around the house can alert a person from any room. Portable vibrating pagers can let parents and caretakers know when a baby is crying. Some baby monitoring devices analyze a baby’s cry and light up a picture to indicate if the baby sounds hungry, bored, or sleepy.

What research is being conducted on assistive technology?

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) funds research into several areas of assistive technology, such as those described below.

  • Improved devices for people with hearing loss
    NIDCD-funded researchers are developing devices that help people with varying degrees of hearing loss communicate with others. One team has developed a portable device in which two or more users type messages to each other that can be displayed simultaneously in real time. Another team is designing an ALD that amplifies and enhances speech for a group of individuals who are conversing in a noisy environment.
  • Improved devices for nonspeaking people
    • More natural synthesized speech
      NIDCD-sponsored scientists are also developing a personalized text-to-speech synthesis system that synthesizes speech that is more intelligible and natural sounding to be incorporated in speech-generating devices. Individuals who are at risk of losing their speaking ability can prerecord their own speech, which is then converted into their personal synthetic voice.
    • Brain–computer interface research
      A relatively new and exciting area of study is called brain–computer interface research. NIDCD-funded scientists are studying how neural signals in a person’s brain can be translated by a computer to help someone communicate. For example, people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease) or brainstem stroke lose their ability to move their arms, legs, or body. They can also become locked-in, where they are not able to express words, even though they are able to think and reason normally. By implanting electrodes on the brain’s motor cortex, some researchers are studying how a person who is locked-in can control communication software and type out words simply by imagining the movement of his or her hand. Other researchers are attempting to develop a prosthetic device that will be able to translate a person’s thoughts into synthesized words and sentences. Another group is developing a wireless device that monitors brain activity that is triggered by visual stimulation. In this way, people who are locked-in can call for help during an emergency by staring at a designated spot on the device

Where can I get more information?

The NIDCD maintains a directory of organizations that provide information on the normal and disordered processes of hearing, balance, taste, smell, voice, speech, and language.

Use the following keywords to help you search for organizations that can answer questions and provide printed or electronic information on assistive devices:

  • Assistive technology
  • Assistive listening device
  • Augmentative and alternative communication

NIDCD Information Clearinghouse
1 Communication Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20892-3456
Toll-free voice: (800) 241-1044
Toll-free TTY: (800) 241-1055

NIH Publication No. 11-7672
December 2011


Assistive Devices for People with Hearing, Voice, Speech, or Language Disorders? ›

There are five general types of assistive listening devices: audio induction (also called a hearing) loop, FM system, infrared system, personal amplified system and Bluetooth systems.

What are the assistive devices for people with hearing or speech disorders? ›

There are five general types of assistive listening devices: audio induction (also called a hearing) loop, FM system, infrared system, personal amplified system and Bluetooth systems.

What is an electronic device designed for use by persons with hearing or speech difficulties? ›

What is a hearing aid? A hearing aid is a small electronic device that you wear in or behind your ear. It makes some sounds louder so that a person with hearing loss can listen, communicate, and participate more fully in daily activities. A hearing aid can help people hear more in both quiet and noisy situations.

What are some assistive devices for communication? ›

Examples include:
  • voice amplification systems,
  • fluency assistance devices,
  • artificial larynx,
  • communication boards,
  • speech output software,
  • symbol-making software, and.
  • speech generating devices.

What are the 3 types of assistive technology? ›

What Are the Different Kinds of Assistive Technology?
  • Screen Readers. A screen reader is a software application that uses text-to-speech technology to read out loud digital content for people who are blind or visually impaired. ...
  • Voice Recognition. ...
  • Switch Devices. ...
  • Reading Assistants.

Which of the following is an example of assistive technology for hearing disabilities? ›

Hearing aids, wheelchairs, communication aids, spectacles, prostheses, pill organizers and memory aids are all examples of assistive products.

What is low tech assistive technology for speech and language disorders? ›

Low-tech AAC - Any type of aid that does not require batteries or electricity. This includes things like a simple pen and paper to write messages on, as well as pictures boards, that can be carried to aid communication.

What device or technology would a deaf person use today instead of a TTY? ›

A sign language interpreter facilitates communication between the person who uses sign language and the non-signing person. Today, many people use videophone technology rather than a TTY. People who are deaf, deafblind or hard of hearing may obtain videophones or videophone software from service providers for free.

What special electronic device lets people who are deaf hard of hearing or who have special disabilities use the telephone to communicate? ›

Teletypewriters (TTY), Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD) and Text Telephones (TT) are special telecommunications equipment used by people who cannot use a regular telephone due to hearing loss or speech impairment. Conversations are typed on a TTY.

What is a talker device? ›

People also call them voice boxes, talking boxes, voice machines, voice buttons, talking buttons, speech devices. Regardless of what you call them, they are devices that help people with poor speech or no speech communicate their wants and needs.

What are 6 examples of communication devices? ›

A wide variety of communication tools are used for external and internal communication. These tools include mail, email, telephones, cell phones, smartphones, computers, video and web conferencing tools, social networking, as well as online collaboration and productivity platforms.

What are the 10 examples of communication device? ›

16 communication technology examples
  • Phone. The phone is one of the core communication technologies that most professionals have readily available. ...
  • Email. One of the most popular forms of communication technology is email. ...
  • Blogs. ...
  • Social media. ...
  • Vlogs. ...
  • Podcasts. ...
  • Livestream. ...
  • Online chat.
Mar 10, 2023

What are 3 examples of communication devices? ›

Communication device examples
  • Bluetooth devices.
  • Infrared devices.
  • Modem (over phone line)
  • Network card (using Ethernet)
  • Smartphone.
  • Wi-Fi devices (using a Wi-Fi router); examples shown below.
Jul 10, 2019

What is the most used assistive technology? ›

What is the most common assistive technology? The most widely used types of assistive technology include text to speech software, Braille, magnifiers, screen reading software, and large print materials.

What are examples of assistive technology for autism? ›

Examples include battery-operated sensory toys, visual timers, and social skills videos. High-tech AT: Is digital technology and can include anything from augmentative communication technology for non-verbal people to robots built to increase social skills in children on the autism spectrum.

What is assistive technology for people with disabilities? ›

Assistive technology (AT) is any item, piece of equipment, software program, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities. AT can be low-tech: communication boards made of cardboard or fuzzy felt.

What is assistive technology for expressive language disorder? ›

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices help people with communication disorders to express themselves. These devices can range from a simple picture board to a computer program that synthesizes speech from text.

What assistive technology is available for hearing impaired elementary students? ›

Assistive Technology Devices

FM System- FM systems send the teacher's voice from a wireless microphone directly to a receiver worn by a student with hearing loss. It can be connected to a hearing aid or cochlear implant, or a headset/ earbuds.

What technology is used for hearing impaired children? ›

FM systems are commonly used for babies and young children

An FM system is a kind of device that helps children with hearing loss. FM stands for frequency modulation. It's the same type of signal used for radios. FM systems send sound from a microphone used by the person speaking to a baby wearing the receiver.

What are two low-tech assistive technologies to address disability or disabilities? ›

Low Tech Assistive Technology

Examples include walking canes, binder clips that make it easier to turn pages, sensory input items such as fidgets and squishy balls, and writing things down instead of speaking.

What technology do speech therapists use? ›

Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) are using computers, tablets, smart phones, smart boards, and more in speech therapy for a variety of purposes. Parents are able to download apps and computer games to help their children practice their speech and language skills at home.

Which is an example of a low-tech device that can be used as a communication aid? ›

Examples of Low-tech AAC are PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System), symbol charts, communication boards, communication books, etc. The user selects letters, words, or phrases from the communication charts to convey their message.

What are three alerting devices that can be found in a deaf home? ›

  • Alerting devices (you are on this page)
  • Apps.
  • Assistive listening devices.
  • Captioning.
  • Hearing aids and cochlear implants.
  • Telephone devices.
  • Transcript: Assistive technology video.

Can hearing people use TTY? ›

TTY-based Telecommunications Relay Services permit persons with a hearing or speech disability to use the telephone system via a text telephone (TTY) or other device to call persons with or without such disabilities.

What are the examples of hearing assistive technology in the classroom? ›

A sound source, such as a TV or a microphone. An amplifier. A thin loop of wire installed in a classroom. A receiver worn in the ears or as a headset.

What are two types of technology that help deaf people? ›

Assistive technology includes:
  • Alerting devices.
  • Apps.
  • Assistive listening devices.
  • Captioning.
  • Hearing aids and cochlear implants.
  • Telephone devices.

What technology can you use to communicate with a deaf person? ›

Video Relay Service (VRS)

Allows non-signing individuals to communicate with people whose primary language is American Sign Language (ASL). You can use video conferencing equipment and sign language interpreters, or you can use your mobile device.

What is the wearable tech for deaf people? ›

The company Neosensory now offers several wearable devices resembling a wristwatch that mimic the ear's cochlea by sending vibrations via the nervous system to the brain, effectively creating another sensory channel to the brain's auditory processing center.

What is a communication device for people who can't speak? ›

Daily Communication

APP2Speak is a complete solution for anyone who has difficulty speaking. Users can take advantage of preprogrammed phrases that allow them to easily express their everyday needs.

What are speech-generating devices called? ›

Speech-generating devices (SGDs), also known as voice output communication aids, are electronic augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems used to supplement or replace speech or writing for individuals with severe speech impairments, enabling them to verbally communicate.

What is go talk pocket? ›

The GoTalk Pocket is a speech generating device which can assist an individual to relay messages when their speech is not meeting their communication needs. It has 4 message locations and can store messages on 5 levels.

What is the most widely used communication device? ›

The most familiar example of a communication device is the common telephone modem (from modulator/demodulator).

What is the most popular communication device? ›

Hence, it is noteworthy to take a look into the modern communication devices that revolutionized how people interconnect with each other.
  • Cellular Phones. ...
  • Smartphones. ...
  • Tablets. ...
  • Laptops. ...
  • Personal Digital Assistant. ...
  • Virtual Assistants.
Feb 10, 2020

What are four examples of personal communication devices? ›

PCD use includes, but is not limited to, placing and receiving calls, text messaging, blogging and microblogging, e-mailing, using video or camera features, playing games and accessing sites or services on the Internet.

What are the two types of communication device? ›

There are two types of communication devices. They are wired devices or wireless devices.

What are the five basic communication systems? ›

Five Types of Communication
  • Verbal Communication. Verbal communication occurs when we engage in speaking with others. ...
  • Non-Verbal Communication. What we do while we speak often says more than the actual words. ...
  • Written Communication. ...
  • Listening. ...
  • Visual Communication.
Jul 12, 2018

What are two way communication devices examples? ›

Common forms of two-way communications devices are amateur radios, pagers, computer networks, and telephones.

Which device is used for communication? ›

Any hardware that can send and receive data, instructions, and information is referred to as a communications device. A modem is one kind of communication tool that joins a channel to a sending or receiving device, like a computer. Data is processed by computers as digital signals.

What is a communication device and examples? ›

A communications device is any type of hardware capable of transmitting data, instructions, and information between a sending device and a receiving device. One type of communications device that connects a communications channel to a sending or receiving device such as a com- puter is a modem.

What are communication gadgets? ›

A Communication device is any piece of hardware or software that can be used to send, receive, or otherwise transmit information. This includes computers, phones, tablets, and other types of devices.

What are the 7 common applications for assistive technology? ›

9 examples of assistive technology and adaptive tools in school
  • Audio players and recorders. Kids may find it helpful to listen to the words while reading them on the page. ...
  • Timers. ...
  • Reading guides. ...
  • Seat cushions. ...
  • FM listening systems. ...
  • Calculators. ...
  • Writing supports. ...
  • Graphic organizers.

What is assistive technology for children with disabilities? ›

Assistive technology includes products and related services that improve the functioning of children with disabilities. It can be instrumental for children's development and health, as well as for participation in various facets of life.

What are the voice output devices for autism? ›

Lingraphica AAC devices (or speech-generating devices) for autism improve communication for autistic school-age children* and young adults. The device can help express a wider range of words, thoughts, and emotions than with speech and gestures alone.

What is the new technology for autism? ›

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is a specific type of assistive technology that can benefit people with autism of all ages by promoting independence, expanding communication, and increasing social interactions.

What tools are good for autism? ›

Sensory mats, pin art, rainmaker toys, vibrating cushions, and stress balls are great sensory items and toys for children with autism.

What are the assistive devices for special needs? ›

These include modified eating utensils, adapted books, pencil holders, page turners, dressing aids, adapted personal hygiene aids. Mobility Aids: Devices that help people move within their environment, electric or manual wheelchairs, modifications of vehicles for travel, scooters, crutches, canes and walkers.

What is adaptive equipment for disabilities? ›

An adaptive device is a device that assists a disabled or impaired individual in accomplishing typical activities of daily living (ADL), such as eating, typing, walking, reading, or driving.

What is the difference between assistive devices and adaptive equipment? ›

Assistive equipment is specifically designed to meet the needs of a disabled person. Adaptive equipment and technology is a subcategory of assistive equipment and technology. Adaptive equipment has been modified or enhanced from its original purpose to specifically meet the needs of a person with a disability.

What assistive technology would you use for a deaf student? ›

Video Relay Service (VRS)

Allows non-signing individuals to communicate with people whose primary language is American Sign Language (ASL). You can use video conferencing equipment and sign language interpreters, or you can use your mobile device.

What is the device called that helps deaf people hear? ›

A cochlear implant is a small, complex electronic device that can help to provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard-of-hearing.

What device helps deaf people hear? ›

A cochlear implant is a small electronic device that helps people hear. It can be used for people who are deaf or very hard of hearing.

What technology is available for hearing impaired children? ›

FM systems are commonly used for babies and young children

An FM system is a kind of device that helps children with hearing loss. FM stands for frequency modulation. It's the same type of signal used for radios. FM systems send sound from a microphone used by the person speaking to a baby wearing the receiver.

What is the most commonly used assistive listening device? ›

An electromagnetic field is created that connects to a telecoil in hearing aids, cochlear implants or telecoil receivers. Loops are the most user-friendly of assistive listening options and the consumer's #1 choice. Hearing loops are simple, discreet and effective.

What assistive technologies and supports are used by students who are deaf and hard of hearing to amplify supplement or replace sound? ›

Assisted Listening Systems and Devices
  • Telecoil. A telecoil is a hearing aid attachment that converts magnetic signals into sounds. ...
  • FM Systems. ...
  • Infrared Systems. ...
  • Personal Amplified Systems. ...
  • Audio Induction Loop. ...
  • Amplified Telephones. ...
  • Coupling Accessories.

What are the three types of hearing devices? ›

There are many types of hearing aids, such as behind-the-ear (BTE), in-the-ear (ITE) and in-the-canal (ITC). Selecting a type that's right for you depends on a number of factors, including the severity of hearing loss, size and shape of your ear, personal preferences, ease of handling and new hearing aid technologies.

What is a hearable device? ›

You can think of a hearable as a headphone with superpowers. Typically a hearable device combines Bluetooth streaming with hearing-aid-like features or health-tracking information. Most often, you'll see the term used to describe hearing aids that look like headphones or share consumer electronics feature sets.

Which tool is most effectively for children with hearing impairment? ›

A cochlear implant may help many children with severe to profound hearing loss — even very young children. It gives that child a way to hear when a hearing aid is not enough. Unlike a hearing aid, cochlear implants do not make sounds louder. A cochlear implant sends sound signals directly to the hearing nerve.

What is a Roger pen? ›

The Roger Pen is an advanced microphone which uses Roger Technology to facilitate better hearing in complex listening environments – both at work and socially.

What is the newest technology for hearing loss? ›

Thanks to ion-lithium technology, you can charge your hearing aids just like you do your cell phone. No more fumbling around with batteries or wondering when they'll run out. Establish a routine with your rechargeable hearing aids, and you've got one less thing to worry about.


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