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Captions for Phone Calls

For years I’ve known of the development of a phone that would provide captions real time for people with a hearing loss while talking on a telephone. This technology was something I looked forward to, as phones scare me a bit. The nature of having a hearing loss: I miss things. Sometimes phone connections are choppy, sometimes my hearing aids have feedback, sometimes the person talks soft or in a difficult pitch, sometimes they have an accent.

Sometimes I can’t hear.

Now, I have a TTY, a teletypewriter, and a video call device. I could call someone on the TTY, or use an interpreter. Only I’m used to talking on the phone. I can voice for myself and hear some, if not most, of the time.

My audiologist has a caption phone in her office. A bit of a large phone with a digital display. I saw it one trip and we discussed getting it for me. It wasn’t until the next trip that I brought it up and set the ball in motion.


I was getting a caption phone.

But this isn’t a simple, pick up a phone and plug it in. I had a technician come out to the house, to install this phone. A phone that needs my landline, a power outlet, and my WiFi. A phone that when the receiver is picked up, an operator is automatically available.

The installation was quick, as I’m familiar with technology. I’ve got a touch screen to access the features of the phone. Something difficult for many users. This makes perfect sense for me, but won’t for many of my readers: the average person with a hearing loss is someone with late onset loss. The ideal person who wants this phone, the ability to speak for oneself and have words to follow, is an older person. Someone who might not be familiar with smartphone technology.

I’m not this person. In fact, my technician commented on how well I heard compared to his other clients.

The phone itself is simple. When the phone rings, I pick it up, and an operator is ready to type out whatever the person on the other end says to me. My words are not involved.

There is a delay, as it takes time to type up words. And this will be the most difficult part for me. I’m very much aware of social norms in communication. And not hearing, asking for repetition, or having a delayed response are not them. So with this phone, I’m more likely to respond, then see the words and ensure I’ve responded correctly.

I’ve used it a few times, once to order Chinese food, where the operator struggled but heard much more than I did! It’s a wonderful tool. And it reduces my phone anxiety. There’s nothing worse than having someone repeat themselves over and over and not being able to hear an important date, word, or number.

If this sounds like something you or a loved one might want, I’d suggest talking to your audiologist. If that doesn’t work out, check out http://captioncall.com.

As for me? I’m not going to be quite as worried the next time I need to make an important phone call. And there’s nothing worse than taking a nerve wracking phone call, and upping the nerve factor!

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