The 10 Most Useful iPhone Apps for the Deaf

The iPhone can be hugely useful for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. As a smartphone with an enormous library of applications, a number exist to better facilitate communication and make it possible to place and receive calls, among other things. As such, here are ten apps to enhance one’s iPhone experience and life in general.

1. IP-Relay: Like TTY or TDD systems, IP-Relay allows you to make phone calls. It connects you to an operator who then reads your messages to the recipient and transcribes their messages back to you. It interfaces with your iPhone’s existing contacts, and restores the crucial function of being able to make phone calls.

2. Hamilton Mobile Captel: Hamilton Mobile Captel transcribes phone calls, as they happen, in English or in Spanish. Using a headset, Captel allows you to see the text of a phone call in real-time while hearing it, making it much easier to understand conversations.

3. IWRelay VRS: IWRelay is a video relay application that, unlike others, allows users to make video relay service calls via FaceTime, iPhone 4’s new video conferencing feature. While other apps have promised this feature, no others offer it yet, making this app particularly valuable for early adopters.

4. Sorenson Video Center: The Sorenson Video Center allows users of Sorenson Video Relay Service to take videos from a videophone and view them on an iPhone or an iPod Touch. It connects to one’s Sorenson account, which it uses to access videos, IP Relay services, and provide easy ways to respond to SignMail videos. It also interfaces with the iPhone’s contacts system and many instant messaging services.

5. iASL: iASL is a comprehensive American Sign Language application. It includes a video dictionary, translators, automatic spelling correction, and a number of resources for study. At 403 megabytes, it’s a large application, but as an ASL teaching resource, it’s highly valuable. Given its large quantity of video content, it’s one application that could be better on the iPad’s huge screen.

6. Subtitles: Subtitles provides access to movie subtitles to use in real-time when watching movies on other devices, making it easier to follow dialogue when seeing films in theaters or in other settings. Note that the application’s content is user-generated, so the quality of subtitles may vary.

7. Tap Tap: Tap Tap is designed to produce alerts when loud noises are made around the phone. With Tap Tap on, the iPhone will vibrate and flash to alert you that there’s been a loud noise or that someone has spoken in your direction. It could provide hugely useful information — that someone is knocking on your door, that an intercom has gone off, that you are being addressed — might otherwise go unnoticed.

8. fring: a multi-function messaging application that makes it possible to make free calls, both voice and video, as well as live IM chats from an iPhone or iPod touch over either a WiFi connection or a 3G one. It interfaces to many services, like MSN Messenger, Google Talk, Twitter, and AOL Instant Messenger, and for consolidating all of these into a single application, it could be quite useful.

9. soundAMP: SoundAMP uses the iPhone’s microphone to amplify sound around the user, turning it into a hearing aid. It allows the user to adjust frequencies to best compensate for hearing loss, captures the last 30 seconds in the event that the user needs to replay them, and allows for enhanced recordings of things like doctors’ appointments and lectures.

10. DeafNation: A reader for content from DeafNation, a news site covering entertainment, sports, and language. Their dedicated application provides feeds for news and the site’s Twitter, videos, and additional content. Note that some users have complained about the app’s news feed compared to the web site’s.

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