We asked families to review products designed for deaf children. Here's what they thought...
Available from Amazon.
Ages: 0-4, 5-10
Reviewed by Rebecca who is mum to Ariel-Amber (4) who has a varying level of deafness and wears a hearing aid.
Superhero Lotto is a matching and memory game by Orchard Toys for up to four players and children aged 3–7. I was excited to try this with my daughter Ariel-Amber, who is deaf, as we’re huge fans of Orchard already and it features a deaf, signing superhero.
The game gives each player a board with a superhero on; each one has their own superpower. The deaf superhero is illustrated wearing a cochlear implant, which delighted Ariel, and the superhero’s special skill is signing. Ariel’s brother thought this was really cool as he often signs to his little sister and it was wonderful to see signing being portrayed as a strength and something rather great!
The aim of the game is to find the matching pictures that correspond to your own board so you have to stay alert so you don’t forget where they are. If this is too simple, you can turn the board over for a slightly more challenging matching game.
Superhero Lotto is a really pleasant activity that’s easy to follow and keeps children focused for a good 15 minutes. My only bugbear is that I would have liked more characters so more than four people can play along. Perhaps there could also be a female deaf superhero?
I would recommend this game to any deaf children or hearing siblings to show them that deafness most definitely has its own superpowers! It would be a good game for schools to have when a deaf child joins, as the more children who see differences in their superheroes, the better.
iLuv SmartShaker 2 alarm clock
The iLuv SmartShaker 2 is a wireless vibrating pad that links via Bluetooth to a free-of-charge app. Install the app on a smartphone and set the alarm in the app. The SmartShaker is rechargeable, so great for nights away and holidays.
Ages: 0-4, 5-10, 11-14, 15-18, 19-25
Typically £30 (£36 inc VAT).
Reviewed by Kathryn who is mum to Aidan (5) who is profoundly deaf and wears cochlear implants.
We borrowed the iLuv SmartShaker 2 alarm clock from the Technology Test Drive for our son Aidan. He’s recently started primary school and we wanted to encourage his sense of independence and also save ourselves a few minutes in the morning by not having to wake him up!
I had seen other alarm clocks with attached shaker devices but was a bit worried. Small children tend to fiddle with buttons and switches so the whole house could be woken up by a very loud alarm at an ungodly hour! I liked that the iLuv SmartShaker 2 was operated by an app so I could control the timings and settings too. Also it can just shake and doesn’t have to be accompanied by an audible alarm that would be no help to Aidan with his implants off at night.
You don’t receive any instructions with the device but when you download the associated app, this takes you through the set-up very clearly. There are three different vibration settings and you can set multiple alarms, so it was very flexible. The only problem we encountered was that we found it hard to know if the app had updated when we made a change to the settings, so, once or twice, the alarm didn’t go off as intended. We’ve fed this back to the developers of the app.
Aidan felt really independent using it. If he came to our bed for a cuddle, he brought it with him. At the end of the trial, he asked if we could get him one so we all thought it was a success!
Phonak Roger Pen
The Roger Pen is a radio aid transmitter that looks like a pen. Like other radio aids it works with a receiver (or receivers) and allows your child to hear speech more clearly.
Reviewed by Emily (12) is mildly to moderately deaf and wears hearing aids.
"At primary school I used the Phonak Roger Inspiro radio aid but for the first year of high school I’ve used the Roger Pen. I’ve found it so much better in the short time I’ve used it. It still connects via the extra feet (receivers) that fit the end of my hearing aids but it’s so much clearer. There’s no interference and it’s helped me in many ways at school when I need to hear the teacher directly, but also in a group conversation where I can put it on the table and hear everyone who’s talking. I’ve even taken it on bike rides so I can hear my dad who’s wearing it around his neck in busy and noisy traffic.
The Roger Pen connects to my mobile phone via Bluetooth so when I get a call I can answer through it and the call is transmitted through my hearing aids rather than having to hold the phone to my ear. This makes it much easier to hear who’s calling me.
I’ve found the Roger Pen easier to use at school than my old radio aid. I have to take it from one lesson to another and pass it over to the teacher there so it saves time as no wires and microphones have to be clipped on. It’s also less obvious to the other pupils."
The EasyCall II is a pad that sticks onto and works with any mobile phone with Bluetooth and sends phone calls wirelessly into Phonak Venture and Belong hearing aids.
Reviewed by Lawrence (13) who is moderately deaf and wears hearing aids.
"I use the Phonak EasyCall II with my iPhone 5S. It fits in a special phone case which you can get from Phonak. There’s a limited choice of phones that fit the EasyCall II case. If your phone isn’t compatible, you can use sticky pads to attach the EasyCall II straight to your phone or another case, but I haven’t tried these options.
The benefit of the EasyCall II is that it helps me make and receive phone calls in noisy environments. The volume of the call can be changed by the volume buttons on your phone. In the box there are clear instructions – when I first used it I easily paired it with my phone using Bluetooth. The EasyCall II has a light that shows you what it’s doing, for example if the phone’s ringing or the battery’s low.
When I get a call, my hearing aids automatically tune in when the phone is close enough to the aids. However it has limited range – four inches from the hearing aids to the EasyCall II. It only works for calling and not for headphones so you can’t hear music through it. Previously I had the original EasyCall but one disadvantage is that when I got new hearing aids I had to upgrade and get the new EasyCall II as my new aids weren’t compatible with my old EasyCall.
Overall though I’m very pleased with this product and would recommend it."
Wildlife Photographer Mia Doll
Mia is a wildlife photographer doll who wears a cochlear implant. She
comes with a camera and newspaper. Mia is made by Lottie Dolls in
collaboration with Toy Like Me, a UK non-profit which campaigns for
diversity in the toy box and for better representation of disabilities so
that differently abled children can see themselves reflected in the toys
they play with.
Available to buy from uk.lottie.com
Ages: 3-4, 5-10 (not suitable for under threes)
Reviewed by Sara, mum to Charlotte (4) who is profoundly deaf and wears cochlear implants.
"Charlotte uses a mixture of sign and speech and we don’t have any other toys in the house that have hearing technology accessories although we do have some books that show hearing aids.
As soon as we opened the box Charlotte screamed with excitement that the doll had magic ears and was obviously deaf like her! She has since played with the doll so much, always talking about the implant and how, “She’s the same as me.” She really enjoys showing the doll to visitors and always turns both her head and the doll’s to show they have matching cochlear implants.
We’ve really enjoyed playing with the doll and I can see that having a doll like herself has been of real benefit to Charlotte."
Aftershokz Trekz Titanium Mini
The Trekz Titanium Mini are bone conduction headphones that use vibrations to send sound through the cheekbones into the inner ear and leave the outer ear open.
Reviewed by Susie, mum to Leo (11) who is severely deaf in one ear.
"Leo was diagnosed with cholesteatoma aged four. This destroyed the small bones of hearing in his right ear and therefore he has very limited hearing in it. His ear can hear but with no hearing bones the sound can’t get to the cochlea. If Leo uses regular headphones he tends to have the volume quite loud and is oblivious to anything going on around him. It’s like he’s in a little soundproof bubble.
We borrowed the Trekz Titanium Mini bone conduction headphones from the Technology Test Drive. These clever headphones rely on vibrations; the sound is passed to Leo’s cochlea through his cheek bones and other bones in his skull, bypassing his missing ear bones. This is fantastic for Leo as it means he can hear in both ears while using the headphones, whereas most of his world of sound is just through one ear.
The headphones are light, robust and easy-to-use which makes them a great piece of kit. While he’s listening to music or watching his tablet, he’s also still aware of things going on around him as his ears aren’t covered. Leo loved them so he was very happy to receive a pair of his own last Christmas!"
Wake ‘n’ Shake Voyager
The Wake ‘n’ Shake Voyager is a battery-powered portable alarm clock with vibration, sound and flashing light. It can also be used as a timer and torch.
Reviewed by Cam (14) who is moderately to severely deaf.
"This alarm clock is small and very portable. I used it when I was away from home for a weekend. Because it’s so small it could fit in my suitcase without taking up too much space and it was easy to take with me.
I want to be more independent and this alarm clock helped me with that. My parents usually wake me up but they weren’t there for my weekend away. This alarm clock made it possible for me to wake up on time by myself without relying on other people.
It was easy to use and it has a pillow clip so I didn’t need to worry about it falling out of my bed. However I couldn’t find a way to make the Wake ‘n’ Shake Voyager make sound, vibrate and flash all at the same time – I’d have liked it to do all three. But I do like this alarm clock and I’d use this again when I’m away from home."
Vibralite Mini Watch
The Vibralite Mini Watch is a digital watch with up to 12 alarms with vibration and/or sound. It’s available in different colours.
Reviewed by Sharon, mum to Evie (11) who is moderately to severely deaf.
"Evie has always been a good sleeper. We wanted to encourage her to be independent, not relying on us to wake her up every morning for school especially as she’s starting senior school this September.
We had a look on the National Deaf Children’s Society website for some ideas. This is where we found out about the Vibralite mini watch and the loan service they provide. We didn’t want to buy one without testing it so we requested a loan and were quickly provided with the watch.
The instructions were easy to follow to set the alarm. The watch can be set several times a day which would be a useful tool if someone needed to be reminded to take medication. You can also choose different alarm modes: vibrating, sound or both. There is a light as well.
We set the watch to go off at bedtime and in the mornings. Evie just used the vibration mode. So did it work? Yes, every morning the vibration was enough to wake Evie up independently. She loved the light as she said if she woke up in the middle of the night she was able to see what time it was. Evie told us it made her feel ‘more grown-up’ because she was getting herself up in the mornings.
We didn’t buy this watch, only because Evie wasn’t keen on the colour (it was orange) or the velcro strap which she said was itchy. We did however buy a similar one in a colour she likes which Evie uses all the time. It was really helpful trying out the watch and we’d recommend it."
Direct input leads
These leads allow your child to listen directly to any music device with a headphone socket.
"My children like to listen to their iPad and iPod but we don’t want them to turn the volume up really high, so we borrowed direct input leads from the National Deaf Children’s Society Technology Test Drive. The Helpline told us which shoes we needed to connect the leads to our children’s hearing aids and we borrowed those as well.
With the leads my children get a better listening experience as they can still keep their hearing aids in and are therefore not missing any frequencies. It makes them more attentive to whatever they are watching. At school they can plug the leads into the computer to help them with school work.
I think the leads are a fantastic product and they are so easy to carry with you. I’ve encouraged other parents at a National Deaf Children’s Society weekend on starting school to borrow the leads to see if they can help their children as well."
These are Bluetooth headphones so they can easily connect to your smartphone or tablet without wires. Instead of sitting on the ears and producing sound, the Headbones use bone conduction technology to pass the sound of music by vibrations through the cheekbones. They are suitable for someone with a conductive hearing loss or maybe a child who doesn’t like wearing their hearing aids all the time.
Available from damsonglobal.com
Ages: 11–14, 15–18, 19–25
Reviewed by Ann, mum to Daniel (10) who is profoundly deaf.
“Daniel tried the Headbones at school when the National Deaf Children’s Society Roadshow visited them. He liked them and he enjoyed feeling the vibrations through them and that they could help him experience music that way, so we asked to borrow a pair from the Technology Test Drive loan service.
We liked the Bluetooth connectivity; it was easy to connect and use. Daniel liked the bone conduction vibrations and the rest of the family (hearing) also liked the sound quality as we could use them as well. Another positive for Daniel was having nothing in his ears.
Daniel has no cochleas and no access to sound but these gave him a positive experience of the vibration/rhythm of music. He loved ‘feeling’ the music through these so we have now bought him a pair. The only problem we have is the battery life – Daniel uses them at school sometimes but often the battery dies before he’s finished.”
Geemarc Amplidect 400 – cordless landline phone with Bluetooth connectivity
Available from Action on Hearing Loss
Ages: 5-10, 11-14, 15-18, 19-25
Reviewed by Maria, mum to David (14) who has moderate hearing loss.
“We borrowed this phone because my son has difficulty speaking on the phone with family members that live overseas, so we decided to try it. There’s a very loud ringtone which allows my son to realise the phone is ringing. He can hear this phone properly by using his Phonak Com Pilot (digital streamer), and he can also talk into the Com-Pilot and the person on the other end of the phone can hear him well. The speakerphone is clearer than on our normal phone and could easily be used without using the Bluetooth function.
When you use an iPhone with the Phonak Com Pilot streamer you’re then able to answer the phone call by pressing a button on the Com-Pilot, but with the Amplidect 400 we couldn’t do this and instead needed to press the Bluetooth button on the handset. The information on making Bluetooth phone calls wasn’t easy to find in the instructions and I feel there wasn’t enough information about it. Although this phone worked well we think our mobile phone is better for connecting, answering and making calls through my son’s Com-Pilot. However, this phone would be a good product for people that regularly use a landline.”
Co-Sign Communications, February 2016
Available from Amazon
From £2.92 on Kindle
Ages: 0-4, 5-10, 11-14, 15-18, 19-25
Reviewed by Kerry, mum to Reece (10), Matthew (10), who has a profound hearing loss, and Joshua (7).
Matthew, Reece and Joshua
“Cath Smith has recently launched some new flashcards, covering various topics. I purchased three of them on Kindle: feelings and emotions, house and home and positive behaviour and they’re amazing! Each set of flashcards is in full colour, easy to understand and the design is suitable for old and young alike. There are various topics you can choose from and I’ll definitely be buying more as my sons all love them.
These are so useful with the children I work with and my family at home. Because of the format, children love flicking through the colourful pictures on the iPad rather than black and white pictures in a book.
I would suggest the flashcards as a great way of helping anyone who is learning British Sign Language (BSL) as it can be done in bitesize chunks and they are a great point of reference. Each one comes with an explanation as to how important facial expressions are, and it gives you a fingerspelling chart too.”