As we age, it’s natural for many of us to experience some hearing loss and we usually learn to cope with it by turning up the volume on devices such as televisions, radios, and telephones. However, if you have severe or profound hearing loss, talking on the phone presents a significant challenge, even when the volume is maxed out. Caption phones can help transform an unpleasant and frustrating experience into a more pleasurable event. If you aren’t sure what caption phones are, this guide will help you get started with this life-changing technology.
What are Caption Phones?
Hearing loss can cause sufferers to feel isolated from their loved ones, especially if they are unable to meet in person. In fact, some people with hearing loss who don’t use caption phones end up avoiding the telephone altogether. Fortunately, caption phones present a solution for hearing impaired individuals that makes communication with friends and family members easier and more enjoyable.
Caption phones consist of a handset, a keypad, and most importantly, an integrated screen that displays the text of the telephone conversation while you’re on the call in almost real-time. When the call is connected, the person on the other end of the call will hear the conversation just as they always have.
However, the call is actually going through a Captioned Telephone Service (CTS) that is using state-of-the-art voice recognition technology and captioning specialists to transcribe both sides of the conversation into captions, which simultaneously appear on the caption phone screen. There may be a very slight delay from when the words are spoken to when they show up on the display, but technology has advanced to the point where the delay is nearly negligible.
Caption phones are available for landlines and mobile devices and use the existing phone numbers and lines you already have. If the service is an Internet Protocol (IP) relay service, you will need a high-speed Internet connection instead of a regular phone line, but the end captioning result is the same. Whether you use a traditional phone or one connected to the Internet, you’ll be able to see the words of your conversation on the caption phone’s display.
Benefits of a Caption Phone
Clearly, the biggest benefit of using caption phones instead of regular phones is that you can participate more fully in the conversation. Being able to read what your conversation partner is saying near-real-time allows you to comfortably converse with anyone you call or who calls you. Your hearing loss will no longer prevent you from taking part in this everyday activity.
Along with the obvious benefit of being able to use the phone again, there are other perks to using a caption phone that emerge as you avail yourself of the technology. These include the following:
- Improved self-confidence
- Increased self-reliance
- Peace of mind
When your hearing deteriorated to the point where you could no longer hear the other person on the phone, your confidence may have taken a hit. It can be embarrassing to have to ask other people to repeat what they said over and over again. In fact, you can get to the point where you avoid the phone altogether to make sure you don’t put yourself in this situation. Caption phones boost your confidence because you know you’ll be able to see what your caller says no matter how loudly or softly they speak.
You’ll also regain some of your independence with a caption phone because you’ll be able to make phone calls without someone with you to hear what the other party says. You can make your own medical appointments, contact customer service, or even just order food or groceries for delivery. Your sense of freedom will be returned.
Using a caption phone is convenient for this reason as well. You won’t have to schedule your phone calls around a helper’s calendar or wait until someone shows up at your house to help you make your calls. You can make phone calls from your caption phones whenever you want right from your own home.
Your loved ones will also realize these benefits when you use a caption phone. They’ll no longer have to repeat themselves until you hear them and they’ll be able to stay in touch with you over the phone, which is invaluable, especially if you don’t live near each other. Moreover, they will gain the assurance that if you need help, you’ll be able to contact the appropriate agency by phone so they can get to you immediately.
Caption Phone Service is Free of Charge
When you look at all the advantages caption phones can give you, it’s possible you think it’s going to cost you a small fortune. You might be surprised to discover that the service is actually free if you suffer from severe or profound hearing loss. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) partnered to provide funds to help individuals with hearing loss use the telephone. The resulting Interstate Telecommunications Relay Service Fund provides this service to hearing-impaired people at no charge.
To qualify for this free service, you’ll need to either self-certify that you have a loss of hearing that requires the use of a caption phone or you’ll need to obtain a Professional Certification form from a hearing specialist or medical provider that attests that you are eligible to receive the services. The company you choose to get your equipment and service from will advise you of its requirements for eligibility determination. Additionally, you’ll need to provide your full name, address, telephone number, date of birth, and the last four digits of your social security number to register your caption phone. This information is required by the FCC, so all companies will need it.
There are absolutely no hidden charges with caption call services. You won’t see additional charges on your phone bill or have to pay for installation. The entire program is 100% free for people with severe or profound hearing loss, but if you don’t inquire about the service, you won’t be able to benefit from it.
Free or Reduced Cost Caption Phone Equipment
Caption phones equipment may also be free to people who suffer from hearing loss, but this depends on the state you live in. In many cases, the equipment is loaned to you at no charge, but if you decide to discontinue the service, you’ll have to return the phone to the company. In states where you own the equipment, there will likely be a charge for the phone, but people whose income meets the requirements may get their caption phone for free or at a reduced cost. Check with your state’s telephone program to learn more about equipment eligibility and charges.
You can also purchase caption phones from a third party like Amazon or Best Buy and still receive the services through one of the caption call companies for free. This is also a great way to research the features of each phone before deciding which one to get. The cost of caption phones averages about $75, but there are more expensive models as well as those that are cheaper.
Caption Phone Companies
There are several companies that offer caption phones and caption call service, each of which advertises various phone models with different features. You’ll want to research these companies to determine which one is best for your needs. The most prominent caption phone companies are as follows:
- Olelo Captioned Calls
These companies are competing for your business because they get reimbursed by the FCC for their services. They are getting paid, just not by you. Keep this in mind when you research the available models of caption phones so that you get the one that will give you the best phone experience.
Mobile Caption Phones
There’s even more good news about caption phones for the hearing impaired. You can get captioning service for your mobile phone as well. This gives you all the benefits of a regular caption phone, but provides the extra advantage of allowing you to take and make calls anywhere.
To get started with call captions on your cell phone, the first step to take is to get a phone that is already hearing-impaired friendly. The Jitterbug Smart2, Apple iPhone 11 or 7, and the Alcatel Go Flip 3 are just some of the best mobile phones for individuals with hearing loss. Once you’ve picked a phone, you’re ready to get a captioning app on your device to make it fully accessible.
CapTel, ClearCaptions, and CaptionCall all have their own apps for mobile phone caption service. Once you sign up with them at your home, you can access their captions for your mobile phone as well. Again, this will all be free to qualified individuals. Keep in mind that CapTel’s app only works on Android phones and ClearCaptions’ app is only available in the iTunes store for iPhones.
Other caption app providers include InnoCaption (both Apple and Android products), Live Caption (Apple products only), eyeHear (Apple products only), and Ava (Android products only). These apps are not extensions of any caption company, so they are available to anyone, regardless of caption phone eligibility. Each one excels in different areas, so try them out and choose the apps that enhance your ability to hear in various environments.
Regain Your Independence Today
With the availability of caption phones, there’s no reason to suffer through a frustrating phone call again. Research your options today and get started with call captioning tomorrow. While it might take a few days to get your equipment installed and service up and running, you can download the free apps on your mobile device now to instantly improve your communications capabilities.
Independence is critical for living your best life. A caption phone can help you regain any self-reliance you’ve lost due to hearing problems. This free and important service will help you and your loved ones converse like you did when you were young.
- State Telephone Programs, HearingLoss.org, https://www.hearingloss.org/hearing-help/financial-assistance/state-telephone-programs/
- Phones & Mobile Devices, HearingLoss.org, https://www.hearingloss.org/hearing-help/technology/phones-mobile-devices/
- Caption Phones, Amazon, https://www.amazon.com/s?k=caption+phone&i=electronics&ref=nb_sb_noss_2
- Captioned Telephone Service (CTS), National Association of the Deaf, https://www.nad.org/resources/technology/telephone-and-relay-services/captioned-telephone-service-cts/
- Internet Protocol (IP) Captioned Telephone Service, Federal Communications Commission, https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/internet-protocol-ip-captioned-telephone-service
- Caption Phones, Heuser Hearing Institute, https://thehearinginstitute.org/hearing-clinic/caption-phones/
- Frequently Asked Questions, CaptionCall, https://captioncall.com/support/faqs