Improving Communications for the Hard of Hearing through HD Voice

April 19, 2016 | Susan Diegelman, AAPD Board Member

For people with disabilities, it is rare that there is a single solution that meets everyone’s accessibility needs. Different circumstances and environments often require different solutions and this is certainly true for people who are hard of hearing or experiencing hearing loss. Hearing aids have become smaller, more comfortable and more powerful in recent years. They can make it possible to undertake activities that were previously more challenging – but they also have their limitations. The development of Hearing Aid Compatibility technologies that improve the ability of hearing aids to amplify mobile devices has greatly enhanced the experience for people with hearing loss, but it isn’t always the best solution for everyone.

That is why we are excited about High Definition (HD) Voice, which is now available on the AT&T network and will eventually be available nationwide, across carriers. HD Voice uses noise cancelling technology and wide-band audio (the ability to broadcast in a broader range of frequencies then traditional phone service) to make conversations sound more natural, even in noisy environments.

Earlier this month I had a chance to meet with the Delray Beach, FL chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) to discuss HD Voice and get feedback on how the technology may improve the experiences of people with hearing loss. After the meeting, many attendees brought their hearing aids to me and asked if HD Voice would work with their particular hearing aid. The beauty of HD Voice is that it lives on the network so it delivers better quality mobile conversations for everyone, independent of the type of device they may have.

In addition to conversations with customers, like those I had in Florida, we’re also conducting research to understand how wideband audio impacts the customer experience. A recent study by AT&T and Gallaudet University in collaboration with HLAA confirmed that while wideband audio isn’t a silver bullet, it does offer significant benefits, such as:

  • Improving speech understanding among individuals with hearing loss
  • Decreasing expenditure of mental effort among individuals with hearing loss (making it “easier” to chat on the phone)
  • Helping to overcome some of the challenges presented by minor packet loss (call quality degradation)

Since wide-band audio broadcasts in a broader range of frequencies, packet loss in one or two of the frequencies are compensated by others, which results in significantly less “break up” during your phone calls.

For customers with hearing issues, both young and old, this technology provides a new accessibility tool that can boost independence and enhance opportunities.


New to HD Voice? Here are the basics:

What is HD Voice and how does it work?

HD Voice employs wide-band audio technology and noise cancellation that allows users to hear a wider range of frequencies. This broad range helps compensate for frequencies that a user’s ear may be unable to hear, making conversations sound crystal clear compared to standard voice calls.

What do you need to enable HD Voice?

The key to HD Voice is compatibility.

To use AT&T HD Voice, both the caller and receiver need HD Voice-capable phones, with the feature enabled, and they must be located in an AT&T HD Voice coverage area. There are a range of HD-enabled handsets that are available today at all price points and eventually HD Voice will be native to all handsets. AT&T is an early adopter of HD Voice capability and is currently the only network fully ready to fully support it. We look forward to the full national roll-out of HD Voice, across carriers, so that people with hearing difficulties and speech impairments will have a seamless, and much more productive, mobile phone experience.


About the Author

Susan Diegelman
Director of Public Affairs, AT&T

Susan brings 20 years of professional experience to AT&T Public Affairs. A veteran of the enterprise software and hosting industries, Susan is well-versed in marketing communications and market strategy in the IT and Telecom industries. Having Joined AT&T’s Public Affairs team in June 2013, she works closely with stakeholders in the seniors and disability communities as well as the education and energy industries.

Susan formerly served as the Director of the Strategic Messaging at AT&T Business Solutions. Previous to that, she held the position of Marketing Director for AT&T’s GEM and Wholesale marketing team. In these roles Susan worked across corporate resources to establish public relations and marketing programs. Susan lead the teams responsible for development of thought leadership content, content merchandizing strategies, segment advertising and collateral and managed a robust events program at the regional and national levels. Susan also serves on the Board of Directors of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD).

This blog was originally posted on AT&T’s Connect to Good blog.


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The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is a convener, connector, and catalyst for change, increasing the political and economic power of people with disabilities.

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