List for accessibility access keys:

  • Hearing

    Using the phone affects everybody's hearing. We hear things differently through a handset because the sounds are changed. Over your lifetime your hearing changes too. People's hearing starts to change naturally, so if you think your hearing has changed it's quite normal.

    If you're worried your hearing is going, or if you know someone who's having trouble on the phone, this will be useful for you.

  • What causes hearing loss?

    Is hearing loss affecting you, your family or your friends? Find out why most of us start losing our hearing sooner or later and what you can do about it.

    Read more about what causes hearing loss
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      Some simple science

      If you're worried about hearing loss it helps to know the facts. It's perfectly natural to lose your hearing a bit over your life time. There's also plenty you can do to protect the hearing you have now.

      According to Action on Hearing Loss, the main causes of permanent hearing loss are:

      • Age – more than half of people experience hearing loss by the age of 60
      • Noise exposure – loud music or noise exposure at work can do a lot of damage
      • Disease – ear infections, torn ear drums, measles and meningitis can often cause hearing problems
      • Genetics – one in a thousand of us are born with a serious hearing condition
    • Noise at work

      If you work in a noisy environment take care to protect your ears. Check out the Noise at Work regulations published by the Health & Safety Executive if you want to know more about looking after your hearing at work.

    • Playing music

      Hearing loss caused by loud music is usually gradual which means you may not realise you are doing damage until it is too late. The longer and louder you listen to music, the more likely it is to damage your hearing. Loud music also puts you at risk of tinnitus, a constant ringing or buzzing in your ears for which there is currently no cure.

    • How loud is too loud?

      Loudness of a sound is measured in decibels (dB). Experts agree that exposure to noise at or above 85dB can damage hearing. To put it in context, a nightclub is usually 110dB.

      • If you have to raise your voice to speak to someone two metres away, the noise is loud enough to damage your hearing
      • If the sound ever hurts your ears, move away from it immediately or turn it down if you can
    • Listening advice

      • Don't listen too loud to MP3 players like the iPod as once you damage the tiny hair cells in your ear there's no cure
      • Be careful listening to music in confined spaces like your car
      • If you use headphones invest in the best. Noise cancelling headphones allow you to listen to your music at lower volumes by cutting out background noise
      • Wear earplugs when going to loud venues such as nightclubs. You can get music plugs designed to filter the sound so you keep the quality of the music while simply reducing the volume to safer levels
  • Recognising hearing loss

    It's not always obvious when someone you're calling has a hearing impairment. Find out what the signs are and what you can do to make things easier.

    Read more about recognising hearing loss
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      What are the signs?

      When you're on the phone it can be hard to be aware that the other person might have hearing problems. These are some of the tell-tale signs:

      • The other person seems to have difficulty understanding you on the phone
      • If you have to repeat things to make yourself clear to them
      • If they seem to find listening to you tiring or a real effort
      • If they seem to think people often mumble on the phone
      • If someone struggles to follow group conversations in places like caf├ęs or pubs
    • What does hearing loss sound like?

      If you're wondering how to recognise the sensation of hearing loss, have a listen to the recordings on the Inclusive Design Toolkit. You'll hear conversations in busy places like restaurants and train stations, as well as different types of music.

      Go to Inclusive Design Toolkit

      If this sounds familiar, it's worth you taking the Action on Hearing Loss check for a better indication. Remember, it's always better to act sooner rather than later where your hearing health is concerned.

      Take the online hearing check

    • Know someone with hearing loss?

      If you are talking to someone who experiences hearing loss, it will make life much better for them if you follow a few golden rules on the phone:

      Don't shout

      There's really no need. Speaking normally is important for people who need to lip read you. And it's much more civilized.

      Speak clearly

      Take your time and stay relaxed. It's much easier for someone to hear you if you speak carefully and clearly.

      If necessary, repeat the sentence

      Simple. If someone misses what you say, just say it again. If they still don't understand, try saying it in a different way.

      Spell difficult words

      You can always spell out tricky words letter by letter. Try it, it's really easy.

      Get advice about calling someone with hearing loss

    • Being aware of hearing loss

      Having difficulty hearing and deafness are very sensitive subjects. If you think that someone you know well could be experiencing hearing loss what else can you do? If you are trying to help someone coming to terms with hearing loss or deafness, Action on Hearing Loss advise approaching things in a gentle and tactful way. If you want to know more they publish a useful guide called Is Your Hearing Going?

    • Get equipped

      Finally, there are plenty of really good products on the market nowadays to help people who have hearing loss and deafness. BT has a really wide range of phone products with adjustable ring tone and volume controls, as well as phones that work with hearing aids.

      Find out about BT products

  • Hearing aids, phones and handy products

    Find out about BT phones and other products designed to help you hear better over the phone.

    Read more about hearing aids and other products
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      Using a hearing aid on the phone

      There are different sorts of phones and different sorts of hearing aids, so it's important to know what sort of phone and what sort of hearing aid you have. Most new hearing aids are digital, but there are plenty of analogue models still around and you can use both with your home phone. It's a good idea to find out if your hearing aid has a special phone setting or "Telecoil" mode. Your GP or audiologist can help.

    • Using your hearing aid

      You can use both analogue and digital hearing aids with your phone. It does make a difference whether you use a 'behind the ear' or 'in the ear' model though.

      'In the ear' hearing aids

      1. If your hearing aid has a telephone mode, switch to this setting. If it doesn't, then use it in the standard setting
      2. Hold the phone with the earpiece next to your ear and move it around until you get the best volume. The ear piece will then be over the microphone of the hearing aid
      3. Holding the phone flat against your ear may cause whistling
      4. Use your phone's volume control or speech amplifier as normal

      'Behind the ear' hearing aids

      1. If your hearing aid has a telephone mode, switch to this setting. If it doesn't, then use it in the standard setting
      2. Hold the earpiece of the phone against the back of your ear, near your hearing aid
      3. Move the earpiece around the back of your ear until you get the best volume
      4. If you hear whistling move the earpiece away from the centre of your ear
      5. Use your phone's volume control or speech amplifier as normal
    • Using your hearing aid in the loop mode

      Some hearing aids can be used with induction loops or inductive couplers to help you hear better on the phone. How you use this feature depends on whether you have an' in the ear' or 'behind the ear' hearing aid.

      'In the ear' hearing aids

      1. Make sure your phone has an 'inductive coupler'* built in
      2. If you have a 'T' switch, move it to the 'T' position or operate the loop according to your hearing aid's instructions
      3. Hold the earpiece of the phone just in front or just behind your ear and move it around for the best volume
      4. If you hear whistling try moving the earpiece away from the centre of your ear
      5. Use your phone's volume control or speech amplifier as normal

      'Behind the ear' hearing aids

      1. Make sure your phone has an 'inductive coupler'* built in
      2. If you have a 'T' switch, move it to the 'T' position or operate the loop according to your hearing aid instructions
      3. Hold the phone earpiece against the back of your hearing aid and move it around until the sound becomes clearer
      4. You may need to adjust your hearing aid volume
      5. You can then use your phone's volume control or speech amplifier as normal

      *All BT payphones have this facility

    • Using other devices to hear better

      Using mobile phones

      Early mobile phones and older hearing aids used to pick up a lot of interference, but as technology has improved this has reduced. Mobile phones can now be used quite successfully with digital hearing aids, but you should still try them together to ensure they are compatible. It is also worth noting that with a mobile phone, the hearing aid should be used without switching to the 'T' setting as this can produce interference.

      If your hearing aid has a 'T' (telecoil) and an 'M' (microphone) setting, it's probably also got a T and M rating, from 1 to 4. The higher the rating, the less likely you are to get interference. To find out more information about this rating download the Action on Hearing Loss article.

      If your hearing aid is not digital or still picks up interference you can try using a neck loop. This will enable you to keep your mobile phone away from the hearing aid to reduce interference. When using a neck loop you should switch your hearing aid to the "T" position.

      Using headsets

      If you use a headset you can usually still use your hearing aid 'T' setting with your phone's handset. We also supply a number of headsets with noise cancelling microphones to reduce background noise.

      Hands free phones

      Hands free or loudspeaker phones are really good if you want to hear your caller better because they produce a balanced sound. They are great if you wear two hearing aids or have severe hearing loss. Hands free phones that use additional batteries usually give a better boost to the phone's performance to help you hear better.

      Use the right phone

      You really do need to use the right kind of phone with your hearing aid. Using a digital cordless phone with an analogue hearing can cause interference. Some mobile phones can also cause problems with analogue hearing aids.

      Hearing the phone ring

      BT ToneCaller lets you know your phone is ringing with an extra sound alert and adjustable volume control.

      Read about BT ToneCaller

    • Phones to help hearing

      BT has a really wide range of phones that are ideal for people with a loss of hearing. They feature adjustable ringtones, speech volume controls, inductive couplers, SMS text messaging, headset sockets and loudspeakers, plus many more really handy features like cordless and hands free.

      Browse BT phones for better hearing

      Other advice

      If you need help with speech, vision, mobility or other disabilities take a look at our Including You homepage for more advice about making calling easier.

      Get more phone advice

  • Take a hearing check now

    It can be hard to tell if your hearing is going. If you've ever wondered about your own hearing take the Action on Hearing Loss check. It's quick and easy.

    Read more about hearing checks
    • More about

      Check yourself

      If you've had any concerns at all about your hearing recently it's better to be safe than sorry. Taking the Action for Hearing Loss hearing check can be done online or on the phone. The online check even works on smart phones.

    • About the check

      • It's been designed to be really simple for you to complete. You can do it instantly so no need to make an appointment
      • The Action on Hearing Loss check will only take you 5 minutes. It won't cost you a penny if you take it online* and you'll definitely learn a lot even if you don't need to take further action
      • The check is not a clinical assessment but it's a very helpful indicator should you need one from your GP
      • Once you've taken the check you'll get a result straight away along with some advice about what to do next
      • Don't worry. It's fully confidential. You won't even be asked to give any personal details

      Take the online hearing check

      *checks carried out from a phone are chargeable

    • How the check works

      The online and telephone checks measure how well you can hear someone talking. They check your hearing in a real life way using situations with background noise. It's just as if you're listening to someone talking across a crowded room.

      • A voice will say 3 random numbers for you to hear and repeat using your keypad
      • This happens up to 20 times
      • Don't worry if you find it difficult, it is designed that way to check your hearing properly
      • That's all there is to it

      Read more about the hearing check

    • Professional advice

      This check is designed to identify people who may have hearing loss. If you know you have hearing loss or use hearing aids already please consult your GP or audiologist for advice about your hearing.

      • It does not cover all aspects of hearing and is not a medical diagnosis. It doesn't assess your ability to understand speech through hearing aids
      • It is not suitable for people under 14 years old
      • If you'd like a full hearing assessment, ask your GP for a referral to the ENT or Audiology department at your local hospital
      • You may also like to think about using one of the many high street retailers, who also offer a range of hearing services

      Take the online hearing check

      *checks carried out from a phone are chargeable

  • Simple tips to help you hear better

    Learn what you can do so your hearing loss doesn't get the better of you when you talk to your family and friends.

    Read more about tips to hear better
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      Using the phone

      If your hearing loss makes it difficult to use the phone there are a few things that can make life easier for you. If you don't know the caller, explain to them you have difficulty hearing on the phone and not to rush. If it's someone you know, try explaining to them they don't need to shout but it can help if they talk slowly and clearly.

    • Useful tips

      You might find it helpful to try some of these things yourself. We've put these tips together with Hearing Link:

      • If you're not sure what someone has said ask them to repeat the sentence
      • Ask them to say the sentence in a different way if you still can't understand
      • Check important words by spelling them out loud
      • Double check numbers or letters - you can even list the alphabet if it helps
      • Repeat the information back at the end of the call just to be sure

      More tips to help you hear on the phone

    • How to hold your phone

      The way you hold your phone can make a big difference if you want to hear clearly when you're having a conversation:

      1. Check you are holding the phone earpiece correctly
      2. Look at the earpiece and you will find some small holes
      3. Make sure these holes are directly in front of the entrance to your ear hole when you listen to the phone
      4. Hold the earpiece right against your ear so there's no gap
      5. You now have the perfect position
    • More help with phones

      If you have other difficulties when using a phone, there are some other helpful sections on this site. For help with vision, speaking, mobility, or for people with learning disabilities, go to our Including You homepage or have a look at our helpful Including You: BT's guide to help you communicate.

      Download Including You: BTs Guide to help you communicate

    • Inclusive products

      There are plenty of great products available now for people with hearing loss. BT has a range of phones you can use with your hearing aid, as well as other devices to make your calling easier.

      Find BT products to help you hear

  • Other ways to communicate

    Read about other ways people can chat together nowadays, like the internet and text messaging, that don't even need you to make a phone call.

    Read more about other ways to communicate
    • More about

      Using a Textphone

      If you find it difficult to hear people over the phone, you could try using a textphone. Textphones are great because they let you have typed telephone conversations. Your caller's voice is translated into text which appears on your phone's screen. It's all done by a simple service called Text Relay. There's no extra charge for using Text Relay and it's easy to use.

      Find out about Text Relay

      Text messages

      You can send and receive text messages (SMS) over a landline as well as on your mobile phone. All that you need to be able to use the BT Text service is a compatible phone and a BT landline. If you want to receive messages as text rather than as voice messages you will also need to subscribe to our Caller Display service (you can do this via BT customer services or online).

      Find out about BT Text

      Download Communication Choices

      If you want to know more about textphones, SMS messaging and Text Relay have a look at our downloadable guide called Communication Choices: For deaf or hard of hearing people.

      Download Communication Choices

    • Using the internet

      Getting online

      The internet is a really good way of connecting with people and lets you have conversations in different ways. If you like using a keyboard and computer screen it is a great alternative option to using the phone. If you are just starting out or if you want to give someone a hand at getting connected to the internet, have a look at our Getting Online section.

      Find out about how to get online


      Typing and sending an e-mail has become a pretty universal way of communicating with individuals or groups of people. Nowadays it's easy to send e-mails from your computer and from many mobile phones. E-mails are good for having conversations across long distances, or for sending and receiving documents and pictures.

      Instant messaging

      Instant messaging (IM) lets you have live conversations or 'chat' on screen with people over your PC. A window opens on your computer screen and you type a message into the message box. Once you hit 'send' it appears on the other persons screen so they can reply in the same way. You need to sign up for an IM address and ask your contact for theirs. You might find BT Live Chat a helpful way of contacting us with any questions you have.


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Does Your Mobile Rate?

Hearing aid compatible mobile phones with an 'M' and 'T' rating. What does this mean?

Read the Action on Hearing Loss article

Tips for Making Calls Easier

There are lots of ways to make it easier to use your home phone – from simple tips to helpful phone accessories including:

Speaking on the phone

Making a call

Answering a call

Taking down messages

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