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Exploring Accessibility Settings – Hearing

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

Have you ever considered what it is like to live in a world of silence?  For many, we rely on accessibility features to help connect us to the world around us.  In a TedTalk by Rebecca Knill, titled “How Technology has Changed What it’s Like to be Deaf” our eyes and ears can be opened just a little more.

Knill tells us that we need to be more than accessible. We need to be connected. Providing an audio with a visual to everyone is what helps us do that. Apple helped with this when several years ago, they started transcribing voicemails. Streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Disney+ no longer say closed captioned for the hearing impaired. Instead they say, subtitles “on or off” with a list of languages.  These are all great examples of Universal Design for Learning, which is designing something great as an accessible feature and how it can help everyone. Apple has a series of videos that share some of these great Universal Design features. In the Designed for Shane R. video, we can see how this middle school band director uses Made for iPhone hearing aids in her classroom so she can hear every note.  

Technology has come so far. Our mindset just needs to catch up.

In our Lunch & Learn on March 9, we shared…

  • Sound Recognition
  • Headphone Accommodations
  • LED Flash for Alerts
  • Closed Captions
  • Audio Transcriptions
  • Live Listen

Who might use these settings?

Someone that doesn’t hear the doorbell or a tea kettle on the stove might benefit from Sound Recognition.  Sound recognition is a feature that when turned on will continuously listen for certain sounds, and using on-device intelligence, will notify you when sounds may be recognized. Setting this feature up on in the hearing section of accessibility within settings and then customizing their control center with this option as well allows users to turn this feature on and off easily.  

If you wear hearing devices, you might want to check the Hearing Aid Compatibility section, so that you can pair your iPhone or Android phone with hearing aids and sound processors. Adjust the speaker levels, switching from stereo to mono if someone has more hearing loss in one ear than the other.  

For someone that needs a visual to support their hearing, Closed Captioning combines audio with a visual.  This provides more support if you or your loved one struggles to understand what is being said in a video whether it is due to being hard of hearing, excessive background noise, or unfamiliar accents.  

Ever want to use Siri without using your voice?  Get Siri to be your personal assistant and you don’t even have to say a word when you turn the Type to Siri feature on.  

Use your phone’s camera flash as an extra alert for notifications by turning on the Visual Flash for Alerts feature.  This can also be useful if you don’t want to interrupt others.  

Someone that struggles with hearing can opt to read what is spoken, as the app uses your devices’ microphone to transcribe what is being said using Apple’s Translate app. On the flip side, a user with limited speech or is non-verbal can type what they want to say in the text box and have it read aloud. Flipping the device horizontally makes it even more accessible, with a larger screen and text that is easier to read. This can be especially helpful in a restaurant or at a store.  Watch the video or read our full app review to find more tips. 

A person that struggles to isolate sounds and conversations while sitting in a crowded restaurant could turn on the Live Listen feature. Users can take advantage of this favorite feature with their Airpods, Beats headphones and other select hearing aids. Create a shortcut to easily turn this feature on by customizing your control center.  Users can simply swipe down to turn their iPhone into a wireless microphone.  For Android users, unless you have the Google Pixel, you will want to download the app, Sound Amplifier, from the Google Play Store.  This app is the equivalent of the Live Listen option included in basic iPhone settings. However, it offers more advanced functions in terms of sound volume adjustments and eliminates background noise.  The app also improves the audio quality of Android devices when using headphones, providing a more natural listening experience, helping users to feel more comfortable.  Sound Amplifier app for Android amplifies sounds, enhancing them from the real world.  The app can also be very helpful if you are in a place with a poor sound environment.  Find more tips on how to adjust these settings and other accessibility features on an Android device from the Android accessibility page

If you missed our event and would like to download a copy of our slide deck, we’ve included it in this post. We also shared some really great links where you can get information directly from the Apple website and the Google accessibility website. Our small group meets every other week on different topics, but it might vary some with holidays.

Mark your calendars for our next Lunch & Learn on Wednesday, April 6 –when we continue our series on Accessibility features for your mobile devices. We will talk about features that are built right into your phones and tablets that help with Guided Access and Siri.

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