Helping aunt with hearing disability to use the phone (TTY/TDD)
August 4, 2022 2:51 PM   Subscribe

My aunt is very hard of hearing with a type of impairment that doesn’t respond well to hearing aids (she does have them). We are looking into a TTY/TDD device to help her with phone calls. I managed to figure out how she can access Voice Carry Over service via her phone provider (Telus), but it looks like we would have to buy the actual unit for her. She hates learning new technology (e.g. she didn’t like texting) so the simpler the tech the better. If you have experience with TTY/TDD machines, I’d love your advice! I’m looking for product recommendations/things to avoid, tips on teaching her to use the tech, and info on accessing subsidies. She is 82, on a pension, and lives in British Columbia, Canada.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl to Technology (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Ultratec is one of the main manufacturers of TTYs. These are the models available through the Canadian Hearing Society's catalogue, if you wanted a rough idea on pricing. CHS also has an communications devices consulting service that you can talk to. They also allow a 30-day trial/refund on devices.

Regarding subsidies, you'll want to look into what B.C.'s assistive devices program (ADP) looks like for TTYs. I'm only familar with what's available under the ADP here in Ontario, but B.C. may have something in place that would cover a portion of the cost of a TTY. What's covered, and by how much, may vary since at first glance it looks like WorkBC administers an ADP for assistive tech people need in their jobs, whereas the ADP for seniors is different.

Seems you're already aware of relay services for TTY users, a.k.a. voice carry over.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 3:21 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]

I'm significantly hearing impaired and am greatly helped by Google Voice, a free local US telephone number with some services. My voicemail goes to Google Voice, which transcribes it reasonably accurately. I hate voicemail so much because of my hearing, so this is huge. This is not a full solution, but might be super useful.

I don't understand why one can't use a TTY app on a phone or computer, but it seems to not be done.
posted by theora55 at 3:49 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]

There are captioning telephones. This article covers the basics: There's some info there on how to get things paid for in the US, hopefully Canada has similar programs.

I've used the Ensemble unit, it doesn't need any special skills beyond using a landline and reading once setup is complete. In the US one can have a tech come for free to do the setup, though it's doable by anyone familiar with getting cords plugged in and wifi connected.. There's no need for the hearing impaired person to do any typing, there is two way voice communication I guess you might need to teach how to use the voicemail.

Sometimes one needs to explain to others who call that they might need to speak more slowly than usual.

I don't have the any idea what voice carry over service is, so it's possible I've misunderstood what you are looking for. If this is for someone who has difficulty with both speaking and hearing they would certainly need a device with a keyboard, not just a captioning telephone.
posted by yohko at 9:56 AM on August 6

Response by poster: Thank you for the replies! These have given me some good ideas.

mandolin conspiracy: Thanks especially for the links to potential subsidy sources! Also the consulting service at CHS will be very useful for us.

theora55: My aunt doesn’t like using a computer or cell phone, so even though I think that would make things a *lot* easier for the situation, I’m not sure Google Voice would work for her. She is very attached to her land line, to the point where I’m not sure she’ll even like having to use a TTY/TDD unit.

yohko: Voice carry over is a system where Person A with hearing difficulties speaks into the phone instead of typing, then when the person they’re calling (Person B) talks, a transcriptionist types what they say and it is relayed to Person A in writing.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:54 AM on August 7 [1 favorite]

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