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For people with hearing loss a smartphone is love

Updated: Feb 1, 2022

Sound Advice by Ruth D. Bernstein

Ruth Bernstein, Hearing Access Advocate

Happy Valentine's Day!

Although this article is about my love affair with an iPhone, the information is useful for most smartphones. People with hearing loss appreciate being able to communicate without using their ears. Smartphones make that easy by providing visual and tactile options.

I’ve had an iPhone since May, 2012. I had no intention of getting a smartphone because I couldn’t hear on the cell phone I had and phones in general were a challenge to my ears. (I’ve had a progressive bilateral sensorineural hearing loss for forty-six years and am now technically “deaf”.)

Lucky me! I now have a palm-size computer that allows me to get and answer email and texts, organize my life on the calendar, check the weather, find out about the news of the day, monitor the stock market, read 900-page books on the subway, take photos at the spur of the moment and use Google, the “magic” information resource. Having flashing and vibrating alerts adds a special measure of accessibility. Best of all, my family knows my anxiety level has gone down dramatically because I can email or text them for help if I need it, something they appreciate, too. xoxo Danny was right! The iPhone really changed my life.

To take advantage of the iPhone’s hearing accessibility features, go to: Settings/general/accessibility/hearing: includes hearing devices, TTY, LED Flash for Alerts/Mono Audio/Phone Noise Cancellation;  Just below that under Media you’ll find subtitles and captioning.

In the last five years I’ve upgraded my phone twice; started with a 4s, traded it for a 5s two years later and now have a 6s that writes out all phone messages automatically. I also acquired a pair of powerful Oticon Chili hearing aids with t-switches and a streamer that allow me to hear on the iPhone so well I no longer have to get up my courage to make a phone call.

As phones get better, the apps improve too! There are apps that will caption phone calls including:

Apple has a medical ID page that can be opened by EMS without a code. In addition to pertinent medical information, it includes the medications you are taking and people to contact in case of an emergency. In December, 2016, Apple added a 911/SOS program that allows you to call 911 and notify 3 people that you have an emergency. To use it, update your iPhone to iOS 10.2.

I also registered my hearing loss with NYC 911. My 911 records show the operator I will have trouble hearing when I call. Go to

We are fortunate to live in an era when hearing accessibility gets better every day. To keep up with the rapidly changing technology, visit CHC. They offer free group demonstrations of assistive devices each Thursday (excluding holidays) at 2:00 pm at their NYC office at 50 Broadway. Although walk-ins are always welcome, it’s best to confirm availability ahead of time: call 917-305-7766 (v) or email them.

CHC staff joins me in encouraging you to go to the Hearing Loss Association, New York City Chapter, monthly meetings. Their members are pleased to share coping strategies; they have a useful website with resources, and an informative newsletter that is always worth reading.

Let us know why you love your smartphone and how it changed your life. Email me at

Best wishes,

Ruth D. Bernstein Consumer Advocate

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