Guide for Individuals with Hearing Impairments

Hearing impairments encompass a range of conditions—from slight hearing loss to deafness. It is estimated that 1 in 5 computer users has some form of hearing loss.

This guide describes accessibility features built into Windows 8 that are available to address hearing impairments and preferences including adjusting computer volume, changing computer sounds, and using text or visual alternatives for sounds. You can also learn about the types of assistive technology products available to further assist you.


In this section:

Make Windows 8 easier to use

With Windows 8 you can easily access the most commonly used accessibility options right from the sign-in screen. Select the Ease of Access button in the lower-left corner of your screen, or press the Windows logo key+U, to choose the settings for your PC that you want to have available each time it starts.

Adjust accessibility settings from the Ease of Access Center

The Ease of Access Center is a convenient, central location where you can set up all of the accessibility settings and programs available in Windows, and "get recommendations" for suggested settings to fit your hearing and sound needs and preferences.

After log-in, you can access the Ease of Access Center by pressing the Windows logo key+U. On a touch-enabled device, swipe in from the right edge of the screen, and then tap Search. Enter Ease of Access Center in the search box, tap or click Settings, and then tap or click Ease of Access Center in the results.

Screen shot of the Ease of Access Center in Control Panel
Ease of Access Center in Control Panel

Use text or visual alternatives for sounds

Under Use text or visual alternatives for sounds in the Ease of Access Center you will find options for using visual cues to replace sounds in many programs, and access to the audio sound themes control panel.

Screen shot of the Use text or visual alternatives for sounds screen in Control Panel
"Use text or visual alternatives for sounds" screen in Control Panel

Adjust computer volume

Although most speakers have a volume control, you can also control speaker volume using Windows. The quickest way to change the speaker volume for your computer is to click the Speakers button in the notification area of the taskbar while in desktop view, and then to move the slider up or down to increase or decrease the speaker volume.

Screen shot of the computer volume control slider
Computer volume control slider

While on the Start screen, swipe in from the top right of the screen and select Settings. Then click the Speakers icon and adjust the slider bar up or down to increase or decrease the computer volume.

Screen shot of volume control in Windows 8 Settings
Volume control in Windows 8 Settings

Change computer sounds

You can have your computer play a sound when certain events occur on your computer. (An event can be an action that you perform, such as logging on to your computer, or an action that your computer performs, such as alerting you when you receive new email.) Windows comes with several sound schemes (a collection of related sounds) for common events. Additionally, some desktop themes have their own sound schemes. To change sound schemes, press the Windows logo key+U, while in the desktop view to open the Ease of Access Center. Select Use text or visual alternatives for sounds. Then select Audio Devices and Sounds. In the Sound dialog box, select the Sounds tab. Select the program events and associated sounds you want to comprise a new sound scheme.

Screen shot of the Sound dialog box open to the Sounds tab
Sound dialog box open to the Sounds tab

Use Office features for hearing solutions

Depending on the learning or work environment, individuals may be able to use a combination of Windows, Microsoft Outlook, and Microsoft Lync, to communicate via text rather than spoken dialogue with classmates or workmates in real time.

Screen shot of instant messaging using Lync
Instant messaging using Lync

Microsoft Lync 2013 provides a single interface that unites voice communications, instant messaging, and audio, video, and web conferencing.

People who are deaf or have hearing impairments can communicate effectively using email, text messaging on phones and other devices, and communications interfaces such as Microsoft Lync.


Find assistive technology for hearing impairments

You can shop for assistive technology products compatible with Microsoft Windows made by independent assistive technology companies. People who have hearing impairments may be interested in the following assistive technology:

  • Sign language interpretation is useful for students and others with hearing impairments to enable them to actively communicate in the classroom and other settings.
  • Personal listening devices and personal amplifying products can also be helpful for people with some hearing.
  • Sign language translators such as iCommunicator which is a graphical sign language translator that converts speech to sign language in real time can enable people who are deaf to communicate more easily with hearing people.

More Information

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