4 min

The Evolution of Assistive Technology for the Deaf and HoH

Interested in learning about assistive technology for the deaf and hard of hearing, and the impact it has made over the years?

Matt Sherman
Matt Sherman
The Evolution of Assistive Technology for the Deaf and HoH

The numbers don’t lie: more than 1.5 billion people live with hearing loss; 430 million have disabling hearing loss. That is roughly 20% of the global population who are hard of hearing or deaf. That's a lot. 

Yet, for the deaf and hard of hearing community, integrating with the hearing population remains challenging, particularly when assistive hearing technology fails to keep up with the rapidly evolving world. For example, placing a voice call often requires human-operated relay services or text messaging to communicate successfully with others over the phone. It’s 2023, people!

But let’s talk about the real elephant in the room: integration. 

Integrating the hearing and non-hearing communities is crucial for creating a more inclusive society. And one thing is sure; assistive hearing technology is key in connecting both worlds, enhancing communication and promoting a sense of community. 

From developing new ways to engage with content and advancing assistive listening and communication devices, assistive hearing technology can help make workplaces, schools, and public spaces more inclusive for everyone.

Four young adults engaging in a conversation using smart devices.
Four young adults engaging in a conversation using smart devices.

But before diving into the growing opportunity to bridge this gap, let’s go back in time to grasp how much hearing assistive technology for the deaf and hard of hearing has evolved in recent years: history buffs, rejoice!

A Brief History of Assistive Technology For The Deaf And HoH

The first hearing assistive technology was the hearing aid, a custom device that amplifies sounds to improve hearing. The first electric hearing aid was invented in the early 1900s, and by the mid-20th century, hearing aids had become widely available. 

Then came the TTY (teletype) device in the 1960s, which allowed communication through a typing system, followed by the more advanced TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf) in the 1980s, along with Speech-to-Text (STT) technology, which translates speech into text in real-time. 

Real-time Text (RTT) followed, allowing instant messaging between people. In the 1990s, Text-to-Speech (TTS) entered the scene, translating the written text into spoken words.

Today, these technologies evolved in various forms, including mobile apps like Nagish, which convert text-to-speech and speech-to-text in real-time with complete privacy and even access to call transcripts!

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How Does Assistive Hearing Technology Improve Daily Life?

From boosting confidence, productivity, and collaboration at work to creating an inclusive environment in the school classroom and even increasing safety and independence at home, assistive hearing technology is advancing and improving daily life for those with hearing impairments.

Fortunately, technological advances are promising, here we’ll cover everything from:

Hearing Aids

Today's hearing aids are small and discreet, including features such as Bluetooth connectivity, noise reduction, and directional microphones. There are also hearing aids that can be controlled through a mobile app, allowing users to adjust the settings based on their environment and preferences.

Caption Call Telephones

Caption Call telephones allow users to read captions of the conversation in real-time and can be used with or without hearing aids.

Technology such as STT, TTS, RTT, TTY

STT, TTS, RTT (real-time text), and TTY (teletype) technologies transmit text as you type and allow the recipient to read the message right away. RTT is a more advanced protocol that transmits audio as you type text. These technologies are used in different settings, such as classrooms hearing assistive technology, accessible workplaces, and everyday life.


Apps for messaging and video calling, such as WhatsApp and FaceTime, have drastically changed how deaf and HoH people communicate. And yet, voice calls still play a prominent role in everyday life.

Some mobile apps provide real-time captions for videos and phone calls, while others offer text-to-speech technology. There are also apps that provide low-tech assistive technology, such as visual alerts for phone calls and notifications.

A young woman holding a smartphone and typing a text message.
A young woman holding a smartphone and typing a text message.

At Nagish, we believe that a key component of integration is speed. That’s why we’re creating an accessible and innovative form of communication that keeps up with the natural flow of a conversation using real-time captioning powered by AI. 

This means both hearing and non-hearing parties can now interact and grow together in a seamless and enjoyable way because getting the full picture of a conversation beats just getting the gist of it anytime.

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