Do there currently exist profoundly deaf operators who operate CW? If so, how does one operate without being able to hear a sidetone?

If licensed in the U.S. before 2006, how did they pass the Morse Code portion of the license exam?

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting question! The licensing question aside, what's worse about e.g. seeing a lamp turn on and off compared to hearing a tone? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 12, 2023 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ while it will not be of benefit to someone profoundly deaf, the ability to alter the side tone through tuning off frequency will often let an operator find a frequency they can hear. $\endgroup$
    – Jim
    Commented Apr 12, 2023 at 16:02
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    $\begingroup$ @hotpaw2 sure, true. In that case: a scrolling "oscilloscope" view of dit/dahs as long and short horizontal lines, or put them beneath each other. Visual "information rate" is quite high for humans (compare: reading an easy text), and using a single point instead of presenting more at once might be quite limiting. Good aspect. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 15, 2023 at 20:30
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    $\begingroup$ @Jim honestly, SDR + waterfall + PLLs are better at frequency recovery than humans; there's little reason to restrict oneself to the 1940s when it comes to assistive tech and tuning. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 15, 2023 at 20:31
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    $\begingroup$ If you put your finger on the speaker and feel the vibrations, would that work or is it a similar problem as with the light? $\endgroup$
    – pgibbons
    Commented Apr 21, 2023 at 8:13

1 Answer 1


I am unaware of how the FCC or other licensing bodies have (in the past) or currently handle CW requirements for deaf licensees, however there are other options to learn morse.

Part of what is taught in a signals school course that includes semaphores (flags) and morse code is using a signal light. Signal lights are used to communicate using morse code rather than CW tones over RF. In fact, there are courses available commercially (https://www.mitags.org/course/visual-communications-flashing-light/) since able bodied seamen are still required to learn morse in the form of signal lights today.

For translating radio CW into something that a deaf person could understand, the LICW club even has a device for this specific purposes: https://longislandcwclub.org/cw-for-the-hearing-impaired/

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    $\begingroup$ Part 97 has a "reasonable accommodation" proviso [97.509(k)], and it appears that it was there before the Morse code requirement was dropped. I have no information on how different VEs/VECs might have implemented it though :) $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 12, 2023 at 15:39
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, same here. I have never had to deal with the situation. $\endgroup$
    – David Hoelzer
    Commented Apr 12, 2023 at 22:00
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not putting this as an answer because I don't have a verified source. But some VE's were rumored to have let deaf CW test takers touch the cone of a loud speaker to feel the sidetone vibrations start and stop. $\endgroup$
    – hotpaw2
    Commented Apr 12, 2023 at 22:37
  • $\begingroup$ What a super idea! $\endgroup$
    – David Hoelzer
    Commented Apr 13, 2023 at 0:03

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