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How Amazon Alexa Can Help Hearing Impaired and Deaf People

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If you’re looking for ways to use technology to improve your life as a hearing impaired individual, then you may be interested in learning about voice assistants like Alexa. It can certainly be used by most anyone who has hearing loss or is deaf.

While there are many smart home devices and software applications out there that can provide some assistance, Alexa is one of the most popular virtual assistants available today.

In this article, we’ll discuss what Alexa is, how it can be used by those with hearing impairments, and some of the best features that it offers. By the end, you’ll have a good idea of whether or not this technology is right for you.

What is Alexa?

Alexa is a virtual assistant created by Amazon. It’s main purpose is to provide assistance to users through voice commands. This can include tasks such as adding items to a shopping list, setting alarms, and playing music. Alexa is also constantly learning new skills that can be enabled by users.

It goes by the name of Alexa or Echo and it’s just one of the smart assistants available today. Google home is the other. It’s an excellent tool that I recommend for younger and older adults.

There are many features of smart phones that can be difficult to use for people with disabilities. However, there are still ways to use them. For example, you can connect your smart phone to Alexa and use voice commands or keyboard commands to perform tasks such as adding items to a shopping list, setting an alarm or turning on a light.

You can also enable skills on Alexa that will allow her to perform tasks such as reading news articles or providing information about traffic and weather.

Alexa devices come in a variety of forms. The most popular are the echo devices. Here’s a list of the different types of Amazon Alexa devices.

In addition to the devices that are solely dedicated to being an Alexa device, you can also use many mobile devices as an Alexa device. This includes iPhones and Android phones. Many tablets can also be used as an Alexa device, such as the Apple iPad and Amazon Fire tablet.

Essentially, any device that has the Alexa app can be used as an Alexa device. Even some laptops and desktops have the ability to be used as an Alexa device, though this is not as common. No matter which type of device you have, if it can run the Alexa app, then you can use it as an Alexa device.

How Can Alexa Help Those With Hearing Impairments?

In an ideal world, every human being would have no physical, emotional or cognitive impairments. But, we don’t live in such a world. Thank goodness that there are tools to help us live with and help to overcome some of our handicaps.

Virtual assistance devices like Alexa can help individuals with hearing impairments the same way they can help most anyone else. With a few minor changes, your Alexa device can help you to communicate with others (via phone calls and video chats).

This is the biggest benefit that Alexa offers for anyone who is deaf or has any level of hearing loss. In a small way, Alexa can help to even the playing field for those with hearing impairments.

The developer behind the work of making Alexa more accessible for anyone with a hearing loss is Abhishek Singh.

Singh realized the need to bring the skills of Alexa to those who have impaired hearing and/or speech impediments. As he told Fast Company, “If these devices are to become a central way we interact with our homes or perform tasks, then some thought needs to be given to those who cannot hear or speak. Seamless design needs to be inclusive in nature.

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Can Alexa Connect To A Hearing Aid?

Unfortunately, most hearing aids are not compatible with home speakers like Alexa. At least not directly. What I mean is that if you have a bluetooth enabled device (like a smart watch) you can pair it with an Alexa device.

This cannot be done with hearing aids, even if they have bluetooth capability.

But, there is an alternate was to set up an Oticon Opn hearing aid with Alexa using the third party program IFTTT. So, if you are using an Opn hearing aid – check out their information on how to do this.

Of course, Alexa can certainly provide you with the same services that it provides everyone else, which include things like:

  • Turning lights off or on
  • Adjusting the temperature
  • Checking the time
  • Reading books
  • And so much more!

If you have a hearing impairment, consider how an Alexa device can help to make your life easier.

Which Alexa Is Best For Hearing Impaired?

In my honest opinion, I believe that any Echo Show device (which is an Alexa device with a screen) is the best type of virtual assistant for anyone who is hearing impaired.

What Is The Echo Show?

The Echo Show is a voice controlled virtual assistant developed by Amazon. It is different from the other Echo devices because it has a screen which allows you to make video calls.

It is capable of voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic, and other real time information. It can also control several smart devices in your home.

Some of the reasons why an Echo Show is better than other Alexa devices for anyone who has a hearing impairment include:

  • The Echo Show has a built in screen display which shows captions and transcriptions of what is being said, so even if someone can’t hear well, they can still follow along with what’s going on.
  • There are individuals with hearing loss who do well at lip reading. Since the Echo Show can make a video call, the user with the hearing loss can see the other person and perhaps understand more of what they are saying than if they were listening to them on the phone.
  • The Echo Show can also display visual information such as weather forecasts, news headlines, and more.
  • The Echo Show has a feature called “Drop In” which allows you to easily connect with other Echo Show users who are in your contact list. This is perfect for making video calls with loved ones or for asking someone to help you with a task.

The mere fact that the Echo Show can literally “show” you visually what is being said allowing you to read the information is extremely useful to anyone with any degree of hearing loss.

Also, you can do video calls to others with an Echo Show and if you use sign language to communicate, this is a wonderful way to have a conversation with others.

Other Alexa Devices For Hearing Impaired

But, there are other devices also that can be very beneficial for adults with hearing impairments. Here are some of the best Alexa-enabled devices for the hearing impaired:

1. Fire TV Stick 4K with all-new Alexa Voice Remote: This streaming media player comes with an all-new Alexa Voice Remote that has volume buttons and mute button, so you can easily control the volume of your TV or sound system. It also has an audio output that is specifically designed for connecting to hearing aids.

2. Fire HD 10 Tablet: This tablet comes with a high-definition 10.1-inch display and Dolby Atmos dual stereo speakers. It also has an audio output that is specifically designed for connecting to hearing aids.

These devices all have features that make them ideal for those who are hard of hearing or deaf. The Amazon Echo Show is also a good option for those who want a visual display of information.

How Do You Make Alexa Deaf Friendly?

There are a four things you can do to make Alexa more deaf friendly.

  1. You can adjust the volume so that it is louder.
  2. You can also disable Brief Mode so that Alexa speaks rather than just chimes when she hears you.
  3. You can enable Adaptive Volume which allows Alexa to increase the volume of her voice when ambient noise is detected.
  4. Another thing you can do is enable conversation mode on your Amazon Echo. This way, Alexa will respond to you even if she doesn’t hear her wake word.

1. How To Adjust The Volume On Alexa

To adjust the volume on your Alexa device, follow these steps.

  1. Open your Alexa app that is on your smartphone.
  2. Tap the More icon on the bottom right of the screen.
  3. Tap on the word Settings.
  4. Tap on the phrase Device Settings.
  5. Choose the device that you want to adjust the volume on.
  6. Tap on the Volume button.
  7. Slide the volume up or down to your preference.

Note: This does not work on Fire TV devices that are listed on your Alexa app.

You can also adjust the volume by tapping on the Echo Show screen and adjusting the volume or tapping on the “+” button that is on top of your Echo Dot devices.

2. How To Disable Brief Mode

If you have trouble hearing low tones like a chime, you can make Alexa speak to you (in the proper volume for you) instead of chiming. Here’s how you do it.

  1. Open your Alexa app on your smartphone.
  2. Tap the More icon on the bottom right of the screen.
  3. Tap on the word Settings.
  4. Tap on Voice Responses.
  5. Disable The Brief Mode option.

3. How To Enable Adaptive Volume

I love the Adaptive Volume option on Alexa. This really makes it easier to hear it when there are other noises in the room.

  1. Open your Alexa app on your smartphone.
  2. Tap the More icon on the bottom right of the screen.
  3. Tap on the word Settings.
  4. Tap on Voice Responses.
  5. Enable the Adaptive Volume option.

4. Enable Conversation Mode

If you are with another person or a group of people and you want to use Alexa, it’s normal to use a wake word like “Alexa”. But you can make it easier by turning on the Conversation Mode. This skills works with the Echo Show 10 Alexa device.

Here’s how to enable the Conversation Mode.

  1. Ask Alexa your initial question normally. Example: “Alexa, what is the weather outside?”
  2. After she responds, say “Alexa, join the conversation.”
  3. This will prompt her to answer any questions presented to Alexa by anyone in the room.
  4. You’ll notice a light blue bar at the bottom of the screen – that lets you know that the Conversation Mode is running.
  5. When you are finished and want to close this skills, simply say “Leave the conversation.”

This may not be a specific skill for hearing impaired persons, but it can make a conversation easier for someone who has trouble hearing.

Which Alexa Model Has The Best Sound?

In terms of sound quality, the best Alexa model is the Amazon Echo Studio. This device has superior audio processing capabilities, which results in better overall sound quality.

The other Alexa models do not have as good of sound quality, but they are still decent options. If you are looking for the best possible sound quality, the Echo is the way to go.

The sound quality is important for anyone with a hearing deficit because it can be difficult for them to hear Alexa’s voice otherwise. It is also important for music lovers because it ensures that you’ll be able to enjoy your favorite tunes in high quality.

If you’re looking for an Alexa device with the best sound quality, the Echo Studio is the way to go.

What Is Tap To Alexa?

This feature lets you use Alexa without speaking but it only works on the Echo Show device. You literally tap the screen. This is a great solution for anyone who has trouble hearing Alexa or is unable to speak to her.

You’ll be able to add shortcut buttons to trigger Alexa Routines. These are custom Alexa commands that trigger multiple actions at once. For instance, saying “Alexa, it’s time for bed,” could lock your smart locks, close your smart blinds, and turn off your home’s smart lights all simultaneously. With Tap to Alexa, you’ll can trigger that Routine by tapping a button, although there’s also a Routines section in the menu for touch access.

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Of course, there are other commands you can tap on as well.

Here’s a great video showing you how to set it up (very easy) and how to use it.

What Is Alexa Captioning?

Alexa Captioning is a feature that allows you to view captions on your Alexa calls using the Echo Show device. This can be helpful if you’re hard of hearing or if you want to follow along with what’s being said during an Alexa conversation.

Obviously, because it’s “captioning” it is text shown on the screen so it only works with the Echo Show product.

Here’s how you set up the Alexa Captioning

  1. Swipe down (from top to bottom) on your Echo Show screen.
  2. Tap on the Settings icon at the top of the screen.
  3. Tap on Accessibility.
  4. Enable Alexa Captioning.

If you use your Echo Show to call others with their own Echo Show device, you can also enable captioning for them to see as well by enabling Call Caption (which should be just below the Alexa Captioning option)

All of these features can really help to make an Alexa device user friendly for those who are hearing impaired.

Can Alexa Understand Speech Impediments?

Alexa is an amazing device that seems to be getting better and better as each year goes by. Their attention to what their users are requesting gets more impressive every time. This includes the new accessibility features that have been added to the Amazon Echo.

Now, people who have difficulty speaking can still use Alexa to get information, set alarms, play music, and so much more.

So, in 2021, they came out with a new accessibility feature specifically for anyone with speech impairments.

The new accessibility feature allows users to complete a command at their own pace before Alexa responds.

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So, basically, she is giving you more time to finish your command before she starts to respond.

I would imagine that as time goes by, the folks at Amazon will keep making improvements to this new feature and I, for one, am excited to see what they come up with!

How Does Alexa Understand Speech?

Alexa uses a technology called Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) to convert speech to text. ASR is a branch of artificial intelligence that deals with the recognition and translation of spoken language into text.

ASR technology is based on the way humans recognize and process speech. The human brain recognizes speech by converting the sound waves produced by the voice into electrical signals. These signals are then interpreted by the brain as words and sentences.

ASR technology works in a similar way. It converts the sound waves produced by the voice into electrical signals. These signals are then interpreted by the ASR software as words and sentences.

The ASR software is constantly learning and improving its ability to recognize speech. The more it is used, the better it gets at understanding speech.

Alexa is constantly learning and improving its ability to understand speech.

How Do You Use Alexa When You Can’t Speak? (Start Here)

Above we spoke about Tap To Alexa. This features allows you to work with Alexa by touch, instead of voice. This is great for anyone who has difficulty speaking or is Mute.

Another method is to text Alexa! She will respond with a text answer right on your phone.

  1. Open the Alexa app onto the Home screen.
  2. In the top of the screen you will see a search bar. Tap on that and begin typing your question.
  3. You will get an immediate text response from Alexa.

Pretty cool, right?

Will Alexa Call 911?

It used to be that you could not contact emergency services through an Alexa device but that has recently changed. If you purchase the paid plan of the Ask My Buddy Skill, you can certainly contact the 911 emergency number.

Another method is using the old Amazon Echo Connect device (which is no longer being sold by Amazon). This works with a landline or Voip service. You can look for used Echo Connect devices in your local area.

You can read more about using Alexa for 911 emergency calls here.

Final Thoughts

Although Alexa was not initially created for the hearing impaired or for anyone that has trouble speaking or is mute, it has become a great communication tool for those individuals. Even for those with low vision, the Echo Show devices can be a very helpful tool.

I do believe that as the demographics of the country and the world continues to age rapidly, that these smart speakers and virtual assistants will only get smarter and smarter. And with that, more and more features will be added that specifically cater to those that are older or have disabilities.

For right now though, if you are unable to speak or have difficulty speaking, Alexa can still be a great asset in your life. By utilizing some of the tips and tricks mentioned in this article, you can use Alexa just as easily as anyone else.

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