Assistive listening devices (ALDs), such as those that offer captioned communication, help people with hearing loss in all situations, but they become crucial in emergency situations.

What Are Assistive Listening Devices?

Assistive listening devices can be a supplement to a hearing aid—or, in some cases, a substitute for a hearing aid—to help people with hearing loss hear better. The variety of ALDs for different situations include captioned phones, Pocketalkers, wireless FM devices, infrared systems, and loop systems. ALDs help in important listening situations by:

  • Minimizing background noise and amplifying desired sounds
  • Reducing the effect that distance has on sounds
  • Overriding poor acoustics like echoes1

For example, when someone with hearing loss attends a large family gathering, an ALD would help them hear a family member talking to them directly while filtering out background noises of others talking, even if their family member were five feet away from them and the party was outside. Or, in an emergency, the user would be better able to hear emergency signals, such as sirens or alarms.

ALDs: Research Says They Matter

When a conversation is captioned, people with hearing loss can easily read instructions and act on that information, giving the listener greater confidence and even leading to better outcomes for the conversation.2

Confidence in understanding and participating in a conversation over the phone is crucial for people with hearing loss, particularly during emergencies. If they need to call 911, having the resources and confidence to do so can be the difference between life and death.

According to Rupa Balachandran, Ph.D., “Captioned conversations reduce the anxiety caused by not being able to hear, especially during a medical appointment or other important communication events.”2

During important communication events, an effective assistive listening solution helps people with hearing loss both quickly contact emergency personnel at the first sign of danger and confidently act on the instructions they receive. ALDs offer powerful and effective safety benefits to people with hearing loss during emergencies.

How ALDs Help in Emergency Situations

In an emergency, ALDs can be crucial to ensure the safety of people with hearing loss. These devices can alert the user to a doorbell, telephone ringing, smoke detectors, fire alarms, and other emergency indicators they might miss with only a hearing aid.2

ALDs become even more valuable at night because most people with hearing loss do not wear hearing aids to bed. In an emergency, it is critical that people with hearing loss can easily contact emergency personnel.1 For example, if someone is not wearing a hearing aid, they need to be able to access a telephone that does not require one.

ALDs work in many different types of emergencies, including fires, severe weather, and hospitalizations.


During the night, someone with even mild-to-moderate hearing loss may not hear a smoke alarm, even if it is on the other side of the bedroom door. Smoke alarms tend to emit high-frequency sounds that are not audible to people with hearing loss.3 ALDs can alert users in different ways by being attuned to picking up these types of sounds. For example, ALDs can alert a separate smoke alarm that emits a loud, mixed low-pitched sound that people with hearing loss are more likely to hear.4

Severe Weather

During a severe weather emergency, ALDs can connect directly to the National Weather Service (NWS) to alert users of the situation. The NWS can send weather warnings directly to an ALD with a technology called Specific Area Message Encoding. Once an ALD receives an alert, it can set off alarms the user can hear.4


Using hearing aids during hospital stays can be challenging. To remedy this, patients can communicate with their families and health care providers in other ways, such as with a Pocketalker or captioning on smartphones. This improved communication can lead to better patient outcomes because patients are better able to follow health care plans and ask questions about their care.2

Act With Confidence


ALDS can be helpful to people with hearing loss in an emergency in many ways. At CaptionCall, we are pleased to provide captioned telephones and services so eligible users can read and understand every detail, then act with confidence. People with hearing loss that need captions to use the phone effectively are eligible for this no-cost service.

For professionals interested in learning more about the phone for their patients, visit

For individuals interested in learning more about CaptionCall, visit