Successful Hearing Aid Use, Part 11: Captioned Telephones Are Great!

phoneMost people are familiar with closed captioning on their television. The words are printed on the bottom of the television screen so you see them and hear them at the same time.

Captioning technology is now also available on telephones. Telephones with captions work the same way as any other phone except they have a screen that displays the words of the person you are talking to. In most U.S. states, both the phones and the service are available free to people with hearing loss.

Let me give you an example of how this works. I have a captioned telephone. When my friend Fred calls me, the conversation goes like this:

 

Fred: “Are we getting together tonight?”

I hear these words on the phone and I see them on the screen.

Bob: “Yes.”

Fred: “Okay. I cooked some Fettuccine Alfredo. I will be over at 5:30 instead of 5.”

Again, I hear his words over the telephone and see the exact captions of his words on the screen on the telephone.

Bob: “Okay. Do you want me to get a white wine or should we stay with red?”

Fred: “I’m not in the mood for a white. Let’s stay with a serious red–a Cab, a Merlot, or even a Malbec. Something with a bit of a kick to it.”

Bob: “Got it.”

And our conversation is finished.

 

MAKING LIFE EASIER

The concept of captioning for televisions and telephones is fantastic! These phones make it much easier for people who are hard-of-hearing or deaf to live normal lives. Look back at my conversation with Fred. Words like Fettuccine, and Malbec are difficult to understand over the telephone. But with captioning, it’s very easy to communicate even with difficult-to-hear words because the person with hearing loss sees them on the screen.

Better yet, the words stay on the screen so you can refer back to them if you need to. For example, I can scroll back in the written text to make sure that Fred said he was coming at 5:30.

These telephones are inexpensive; you can buy one for about $100 in a store. Also, in most states, hard-of-hearing people can order one free or for a discounted price. (Go online to find out how people with hearing loss can order a free or discounted captioned phone in your state.) The captioning service is available at no charge. The service provider transcribes the other person’s words into easy-to-read text (large font), so there is no more guessing what he or she is saying. People with severe hearing loss simply read the conversation.

You talk on the telephone in a normal manner, and the other person on the line doesn’t even know you are using a captioning service.  If you miss some words, you scroll the screen up or down to find the words you missed.

 

GETTING CONNECTED

To take advantage of this great technology, you connect your captioned telephone phone to a regular phone line and to a high-speed Internet connection. When you place a call on this phone or a call comes in, your phone automatically alerts the captioning service and tells them that you will be needing their help.

The free captioning service uses voice-recognition technology and human translators to transcribe the caller’s words into text. In the example above, I was able to read Fred’s words because a person at the captioning service repeated them, then voice-recognition technology transcribed that person’s words, and then the transcribed words were sent via the Internet connection to my phone, where they were displayed as text on the screen.

These captions are created quickly, so there is only about a two-second delay between when Fred spoke them and when I hear them and see them on my phone.

This is a great idea for people who don’t hear well with a telephone.


1 Comment

  1. This article assumes that the captioning is accurate, complete, and speedy. I found it was none of those. I kept having to tell people to wait for the captioner to catch up. Many of the words I couldn’t catch the captioner also was unable to catch. Sometimes, as with live CART, the sentence made no sense. I was never able to carry on a normal conversation and before long gave up using the phone. I just persuade everyone to communicate by email.

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