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Telephone devices

The Telephone Equipment Distribution (TED) Program provides some of these devices to Minnesotans who qualify.

Amplified ringers

Various types of ringers can be attached to a telephone line to inform a person who is hard of hearing that the telephone is ringing.

Amplified telephone

Telephones with built-in amplifiers that range from 25 to 55 decibels. Many have variable tone selectors and loud ringers.

Captioned telephone

  • For people who have difficulty hearing over the telephone and prefer to use their voice to communicate.
  • Some captioned telephones require internet service, and some do not. 
  • Captioned calls are made through a relay service. Using a captioned phone the person with the hearing loss can speak and listen to the other party. At the same time the person can read captions of what the other party is saying on the telephone’s display screen.
  • Today, many people are using captioned phones rather than voice carry over telephones.
  • You can see how captioned phone calls work in this video from Minnesota Relay.

Portable phone amplifier

A lightweight battery-operated device with an adjustable volume control that fits over the listening end of the handset.


A TTY is a telecommunications device that allows a person to type a message on a keyboard, and send it through a Telecommunications Relay Services operator. The TRS operator reads the message to the other party, and types the other party's reply to the TTY user. Today, many new smartphones have built in TTY software, eliminating the need for a separate device. To learn more about the TTY software for your device, check the user manual or support page for your particular device. 

Here are some links to get you started:
Apple's Set up and use TTY or RTT on an iPhone 
Android Accessibility Help's Use real-time text (RTT) with calls


  • A web camera and video screen that allows people who use sign language to make telephone calls.
  • Requires an internet connection. 
  • Calls are made through a video relay service (VRS). 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. Video Relay Service providers include ConvoGlobalPurple, Sorenson and ZVRS, among others. 

Where to buy phone devices

Generally, most adaptive phone devices are only available from specialty retailers. You can find some specialty retailers on these two vendor lists:

As with all technology, prices vary widely. Consider the features and benefits that are important to you, as well as your budget.

If you would like to see how different phone devices work, contact us for a Hearing Loss Assistive Technology Demonstration.

Fact sheets

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