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January 18, 2010 7:22 PM   Subscribe

My mom has 85% hearing loss. Phone calls are frustrating most of the time. I have to keep things very simple. Has anyone used a device like CapTel (http://www.captel.com/) ?? Looking for testimonials or other options.
posted by jack.tinker to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I have no experience with the CapTel device (although it looks very interesting).

My mom has severe hearing loss as well, and she uses a speakerphone with a volume control. She can't hear a phone held up to her ear, but the speakerphone with the volume turned way up seems to work okay for her.

She also goes in quite frequently to get her hearing aids adjusted. It is absolutely amazing to me that hearing aids (which are so expensive) need so much maintenance! So your mom may want to also have someone look at her hearing aids if she has them. They may be able to tweak them to make phone calls easier.
posted by Ostara at 7:37 PM on January 18, 2010

My mom uses one. It allows me to talk to her on the phone, and for her, there really isn't an alternative. Sometimes the transcription is imperfect, but usually there is no problem. If you are in the United States, you may be able to get a CapTel or other assistive listening devices for free from your state office of the deaf and hard and hearing (the name varies).
posted by Wordwoman at 7:43 PM on January 18, 2010

My mom has the hearing aids 'tuned' regularly. She has seen three different audiologists over the last (almost) ten years. The audiologist trips help. But there is really nothing else they can do short of a cochlear implant (to which she said "no way in heck").

I like the idea of the CapTel. She has used the CC on the TV for years and I think that it would help her immensely. I am concerned with how well it works and ease of use. If it was a 'pain' she wouldn't use it. If it was seamless, she would. It looks like they have a USB option so you could set it up with a flat panel monitor for larger text. Again, I am looking for feedback.

Thanks Ostara and Wordwoman.
posted by jack.tinker at 9:00 PM on January 18, 2010

Here's one out-of-left-field suggestion:

I started using Skype (which to my surprise, also works perfectly well using my PC as a speakerphone, just talking at the embedded mic, and listening via the speakers), and I hooked it up to a set of headphones.

Would using headphones, so that your mom listens to the conversation with both ears, help? It really made the call more "real" and "central" than the usual one-ear phone conversation, not to mention replacing any distracting noise in the "other ear" with the phone call.

All cell phones and many home phones are now equipped with a 2.5mm jack; with the right http://www.google.com/search?q=3.5mm to 2.5mm adapter, you can connect that to any "normal" set of earphones/headphones.
posted by orthogonality at 9:32 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I really enjoy my job as a captioning assistant working for Captel. Obviously I cannot address the end-user experience, but speaking from the CA perspective I suggest your mother request information from Captel and give it a whirl. True, depending on state laws, clients can often receive the adaptive equipment free of charge - be aware there may be telephone charges for long-distance calls. There are federal guidelines every captioning assistant is required to meet for speed and accuracy; we are monitored daily and tested monthly for both. I have off days (laryngitis or a head cold, for example, can throw my captioning off), but I promise you we all aim for complete accuracy, all the time. And by using her diplay screen she'll be able to have a real-time conversation in as fast a speed as the person on the other end of the line can speak, like 130 wpm or better.

Can you understand your mother if/when you speak to her on the phone?
posted by mcbeth at 10:01 PM on January 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

My grandfather has complete hearing loss and Captel has made a WORLD of difference for him in terms of staying connected to family members. He absolutely loves it, and the rest of the family is also happy to be able to stay in touch.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:55 AM on January 19, 2010

(The only issues we've had are family injokes in which the CA will sometimes ask me if I'm serious or what the hell that word was, but that's resolved immediately.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:55 AM on January 19, 2010

I have hearing problems too and find it much easier to hear the other person when using a headset/mic (a low-priced Logitech one) via gChat, Skype or MSN. It's definitely worth a try. The volume and clarity will vary on each model (and price is definitely not an indicator) so do try more than one headset if you can.

orthogonality's suggestion to try plugging that same headset into her landline or cell phone is excellent for calls which can't be made over the internet. I had no idea you could do this and I'm just going to investigate what the UK market is like.
posted by ceri richard at 6:54 AM on January 19, 2010

My mother-in-law has about 90% hearing loss and has had it for her whole life. For a long time this led to similar situations while talking on the phone. Eventually we got her a cell phone with a texting plan and once she learned how to use it has been a godsend as she can send texts and communicate from anywhere instead of being tied to her PC or TTY phone. She also frequently uses IM to communicate. I know that you do not get as much information across using these mediums but it works for us. Just something to think about.
posted by caflores22 at 7:01 AM on January 19, 2010

I know my grandmother uses one of these, but I've had limited experience on the phone with her. My mother, however, says "I hate the damn thing! You have to talk in slow motion."
posted by citywolf at 7:17 AM on January 19, 2010

the CA will sometimes ask me if I'm serious or what the hell that word was

A Captel CA cannot ask for clarification- there is no direct vocal link from the captionist to either person on either end. Whatever you say, no matter what that might be, hiccups and all, is what the CA captions. If the CA cannot understand you the caption will indicate that it was unclear, then giving the client option to ask for clarification if s/he couldn't understand you. If you call your hearing impaired loved one's Captel phone desperately wanting to talk about your favorite song from 'Mary Poppins', for example, s/he will read the screen and know it is that knee tappin' show stopper 'Supercalifragilisticexpialadocious'. Also, from the Captel website FAQ section:

Captioned Telephone is similar to two-line VCO in that users get the benefit of both voice and text. However, Captioned Telephone uses only one telephone line instead of requiring two, the captions appear at a much faster speed — nearly simultaneously with the spoken words (instead of significantly slower than the speaker). It is far less complicated and cumbersome, and CapTel uses only one device (a CapTel phone) instead of two (a TTY and a Telephone).

Perhaps you're referring to a different company?

There can be slight delay, ~4 seconds or so, because it just takes that amount of time after Person A says something to go to CA's ear --> revoices --> into a computer --> passed along to Person B's display screen. Captel offers a pile of different ways to communicate, and Captel phones have amplified handsets and audio tone control. I'd guess a fair number of clients turn the captioning off because their needs are met by the superduper amplification.

Captel200 is a phone with a display window, analog telephone line.
2-line Captel phones automatically caption every incoming call (i.e. callers do not have to call captioning service first) Captel user can also have another speaker on the second line (i.e. Nana and Pop can both talk to the grandkids at the same time, Nana using the Captel phone to read captions, Pop on the extension phone).
Captel 200usb displays call content on a computer screen via usb connection (large screen captions esp. useful for people with low-vision concerns).
Captel800i (aka Webcaptel) enables a person with hearing loss to read the captions of their telephone conversation over any standard internet connection using a web browser and VOIP.
Captel also offers Mobile Captel for cell phone users.
As with any technology the fluidity of all these options depends somewhat on the individual's learning curve and comfort level.
Captel also offers captioning en Español.

Obviously, there are a number of TTY (tele typewriter) and TTS (text to speech) companies offering TDD (telecommunication devices for the deaf). LMNOPXYZ. Each company has its own quirks and can offer a variety of options, requirements, etc., and it makes good sense to do a little research before launching out. I am not familiar with the details of it but as with most new items, there is a warranty time (90 days, I think?) to test drive a Captel phone. Captel's customer service folks can provide you more information (888) 269-7477.

I am proud of the work I do at Captel, and no matter what option your mother decides to pursue -Captel or others- I wish you and your mother the best. Clear communication rocks.
posted by mcbeth at 9:09 AM on January 19, 2010

Echoing part of what mcbeth said; you might look into getting TTD devices. If she's comfortable typing, they will allow you to cut out the middleman. There are Relay services that will translate Voice to and from TTD, if she needs to speak with people without them (Captel sounds like essentially that service, but with the audio passed along as well, although I'm not familiar with them.)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:30 AM on January 19, 2010

My mother is resistant to change. We thought that a PC and email would have been a good solution a few years ago. However, that was too much of a change.

(I would have liked to use the USB option, but you need a PC for the attached monitor).

A cell phone with unlimited texting might have worked but the cell reception is spotty at best.

However, today she agreed to try the CapTel. Why? Because it looks like a phone. It works like a phone. It sounds like a phone... but it has closed captioning (like the TV (which was my argument)).

It sounds like a seamless solution that will work. I will let you know.
posted by jack.tinker at 5:19 PM on January 19, 2010

Totally random here, but as a Deaf person, I want to clarify - hearing loss is not measured in percent. It's generally only in decibels. For most people, when they use a percent, they actually mean decibels. Using percent doesn't mean anything. :)
posted by etoile at 9:07 PM on January 23, 2010

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