I Love My New Captioned Phone

Like most people with hearing loss, I regularly have trouble hearing on the phone. I make religious use of my amplified headset and the volume control on my speakerphone, but sometimes, it is not enough. It can be embarrassing to keep asking someone to repeat themselves, and dangerous if important information is being conveyed. I remember one phone call with an editor where I kept repeating what I thought I had heard to keep the conversation moving forward. It was very stressful and difficult for both of us.

After that call, I decided to try a captioned phone to see what benefits it would bring. It has only been a few weeks, but I am very pleased with it.

Living With Hearing Loss | A Hearing Loss Blog

You use a captioned phone just like a normal phone, answering and placing calls by picking up the handset. Mine also has a speakerphone which lets me keep my hands free. The volume of the handset and the speakerphone is adjustable, as well as the volume of the ring. This lets me use my residual hearing in addition to the captions.

The technician told me that blue tooth connections are coming soon so one day I may be able to link my cell phone to it, but not yet.

In practice, I don’t always start a call with my captioned phone — only with people I know I will have trouble hearing or for an important business call where there is no room for error. But if I realize I need additional help understanding once a regular call is underway, I simply pick up the handset of the captioned phone (I keep two phones in my office — a regular phone and the captioned phone) and the captions begin. I can then swap over to the captioned phone to continue my call.

People who have more difficulty hearing on the phone may choose to use the captioned phone for all calls. The good news is that it is flexible, based on your specific needs.

How To Get A Captioned Phone

Getting a captioned phone was easy. I visited the website of my chosen provider to register and filled out a few forms. One of the forms needed to be signed by my audiologist confirming my hearing loss. Once the information was submitted, I was able to schedule an installation appointment. A friendly technician arrived at my home a week later and in under an hour, I was ready to go.

And it is free! Part of the Americans with Disabilities Act created a fund to supply captioned telephone service to individuals with hearing loss at no cost to them. Fees come out of surcharges that were historically part of land line phone bills. Most of us have probably paid these surcharges ourselves over the years. It is nice that we are benefiting from that now.

There are several providers of captioned phones including CapTel, CaptionCall, ClearCaptions and others. Each has unique features and a variety of phone models, so check out the company websites to see which one is best for you.

How Does The Captioning Work?

In most cases, the captioning involves a live captioner who is on the line during your call. The captions are created in real-time as the conversation takes place. There is a bit of a time delay and there are occasional errors in the captioning, similar to live captioning generally, but it is workable.

Companies follow strict privacy regulations so none of the conversations are recorded. A transcript can be saved on some phones, however, so you can reference the conversation at another time if need be.

If you have trouble hearing on the phone, give a captioned phone a try. I am very pleased with mine.

Readers, do you have a captioned phone?

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62 thoughts on “I Love My New Captioned Phone

  1. I’ve used a captioned phone for several years. While it’s better than no assistance at all there are still issues which make using it not seamless.

    Firstly, since there’s a human on the other end transcribing, there are delays in the written caption. If the person I’m speaking to speaks for a long while, it’s difficult for the transcriber to catch up so I end up explaining to the person why I’m unable to respond until the captions appear. Sometimes the call isn’t being transcribed because of some tech glitch. I then must explain this and call them back another time when I’ve fixed the issue. Also, captions aren’t always accurate and many times need to extrapolate and infer what the captions/person is saying.

    All this gives me second thoughts about using it for work.

  2. These days, except for in office, I no longer use any of those VOIPs or land line phones at home. Mobile only. so I’d be interested to see how you use captioned calls on any mobile phone like iphone.

    • I do not have a smart phone/iphone. How would using captions on a smart phone be any better than captions on a landline? Also, you seem to be using the captions on a landline in the office. That’s exactly where I feel there could be a bigger problem.

      • no. my office does not have any landline. but our technician figured out a way to make captioned phone work for me (I don’t know how). But that’s for business side. I have no problem using it at office.

        sorry to know that you don’t have a smart phone. a lot of benefits for us one being text msg. and what happen if you have car broken down in the middle of road or your car key locked inside car? where to search for landline captioning phones for help?

        why pay an extra fee for landline phone at home? that’s where smart phones come in. most of our next generation doesn’t have any landline phones at home anymore. this will be the things of past sooner than we realize.

      • All very true. We actually still use our landline. I’m aware I can benefit in many ways with a smart phone it’s a huge expense–both the purchase, voice and data. Maybe sometime in the future.

      • Using a smart phone with a bluetooth streamer (compatible, of course), sends the person’s voice directly into your hearing aids…so, voice is clear as can be…plus….hands free! Don’ t even need to be too close to the cell phone

    • There was a start up company at the HLAA convention 2 years ago called Innocaption that had developed caption calling for cell phones. Because it was a start up I didn’t follow up with them. But they might be worth looking at again with 2 years under their belt. I am hoping they are at the convention this year to get a demo.

    • Linda, apparently there is supposed to be captioning apps for iphones. Not so for Android phones…yet.

  3. I have been using Caption Call on my iPad for a couple years now. I like being able to save conversations as some of them go into great detail about school for my kids. Both kids have IEPs for accommodations and modifications. As they get older, the modifications and accommodations get more specific. I have recently started using wired headphones with an in line mic. Every person I have spoken with using the headphones has said I sound much better. My only trouble with it is I cannot hear my own voice! Just a small thing but I’m sure I will get used to it. I lost my hearing in my left ear 9 years ago as a result of ear/brain surgery to remove an inner ear tumor (acoustic neuroma). The hearing in my right ear is quickly diminishing due to genetics. I am thankful for the invention of captioning phones, BAHA hearing aids, and more accommodations for people with disabilities.

  4. I’m particularly interested in smart phone/ipad phone captioning for international use. From what I’ve learned, captioning services are only good in this country. Huge issue if I’m traveling and use a cell.

    • Unfortunately, Susan, there is NONE for traveling.
      Innocaption for cell phones, ONLY works in USA.
      I am in Israel…so, I can only use my speaker, or bluetooth streamer, which pipes sound from phone calls, directly into my hearing aids.

  5. I have a Captel phone (a landline) which gives me the captioning for my calls. Yes, it is not perfect but without it I would not be able to make calls. I also have an android smartphone and can use an app that shows captions of my calls. While I haven’t used it very much, it still helps me.

    • Nancy, which app do you use for your Android cell phone?
      Also, I’m curious: do you have to listen on headphones while viewing the screen for the captions? One can’t listen on the actual phone while reading the captions.
      Thank you.

  6. I have been using SPRINT Relay service for awhile now on my IPhone and their app is pretty good. Very reliable and professional relay service . You can save or email your conversation . In the past , I always used a TTY with a relay service and had no problems. I currently don’t have a regular landline phone at home , but I probably would look into the caption phone if I did .

  7. I just got a caption phone. I haven’t been using it though, I haven’t talked on the phone in so many years it is daunting. I have a call scheduled for later this week, I hope it will go well. My phone has blue tooth capabilities. So I have the same number as my cell phone. If I’m home, I can just answer my caption phone. If I’m not, it will pick up my voicemail so I will be able to see it when I get home.
    I look forward to being more independent because of my phone. I can now make my own appointments and things, that’s awesome.
    I hope you continue to like yours.

    • Do y’all know about GoogleVoice?? It’s free. Register, get a number and set it up to forward calls to your cell! Now when I get voicemails on my cell I also get a text and email with the transcript. Whew! It’s wonderful to have.

      • Yes….I have it.
        It’s not 100% reliable.
        I live in Israel.
        I get notified that someone called it…but, if the person doesn’t speak clearly, then the robot doesn’t capture what s/he is saying.

    • Get a blue tooth streamer that is compatible with your hearing aids (PHONAK and OTICON make these).
      Best investment I ever made.
      Person’s voice gets piped directly into my hearing aids, so I can hear almost normally.
      Streamers are NOT expensive…only a couple hundred bucks.

    • I am not sure how the rules work in other countries. I suggest you reach out to the phone captioning companies and ask them. The links are in the article. Good luck to you!

    • Tzipporah, I mentioned this point earlier: I can’t seem to find such a company/app for English for international use. I emailed bekol.org to inquire.

    • I live in Israel..
      Currently, there’s no way to get captions, other than Google Voice….but, it’s not 100% reliable (see above for explanation).
      I live in Jerusalem….last year, made Aliyah…started First-ever, Anglo support group for English speaking, HOH/deaf people…..at AACI.
      Feel free to contact me, if you’d like to join.
      I am a licensed Speech pathologist, with training in Audiology…retired (worked for 20 years, with HOH, Autistic and other special needs people).

      • Hi Ronnie, I’m VERY interested in your support group. Can we talk via what’s app or email?

  8. I have a CaptionCall phone, the app on my iPad and also InnoCaption on my iPhone. I use InnoCaption everyday for work when I have conference calls or speak with external customers who I may or may not be able to understand. The delay is minimal to compared to my experience with my hard phone and captioning and the accuracy is pretty solid with InnoCaption. Really has been a god send for me.

  9. I have a captioned landline phone, but I needed a captioned line for our country place where we don’t have a landline. The company that gave me the landline caption phone, gave me a free phone number to be used on my iPad. It’s great to have it in our country home and when I am traveling. The phone number is a different number than my landline and is free of charge.

      • Caption call is NOT 100% reliable…..if person talking to you doesn’t speak slowly, or clearly, then the captioner does not get the message quite right.
        Also…real pain in the neck, because the instrument that they give you, is tethered with a cord, so you can’t move around.
        A rep came to my house, to install the service on my iPad, but it never worked.

      • You may need to get a separate phone number if you use a relay service on your phone in your office and your employer may not want to pay for that unless you do heavy phone calls with your job responsibilities. Plus many employers are concerned with having 3rd party (such as relay operators )in calls due to privacy and security issues . But it’s worth checking into .

  10. I had a Captioncall phone. A nice person came out and installed it for me by connecting it to a landline (landlines now runs via internet/cable service, not like the old days when it actually was a real landline) and upon testing a call to one of my kids I was so thrilled to see their words on the screen that I almost cried.
    However, it soon became apparent there were many problems. The first thing is that the transcriber on the other end could not understand much of what was being said either, and a lot what the captioner was typing on my screen were the words “Unintelligible”. “Unintelligible”. “Unintelligible”. Line after line of that. Which is already my life. Unintelligible. So it was rather useless.

    The handset volume can be turned up to use in conjunction with the visuals, which always helps (like when watching TV with captions on) but the actual handset didn’t have very good audio to begin with. It is flimsy, did not cup around the ear well, and kept falling out of the cradle, where I would often phone the phone had slipped “off the hook” and was not even connected. The cord is too short and you are tethered to the device.
    I tried to plug my own headphones into the audio jack to enhance the sound, but the jack is not compatible with standard plugs and it means going out and purchasing an adapter somewhere.

    And finally, there is a live person on the other end captioning your conversation.
    Although this might be very helpful in an emergency, I feel like my personal conversations should remain personal, and that any identifying information in business (like bank, credit card purchases, etc) that might be done over the phone is not necessarily safe when there is a third party involved listening in and transcribing that kind of information, no matter how much they guarantee that staff is sworn to uphold discretion.
    So I gave up on the caption phone and it has been sitting in it’s box for a couple of years now.
    My mobile service provider transcribes voicemail messages into text, which is not always exactly accurate but mostly works and is pretty helpful. I also recently switched to Oticon OPN hearing aids, which stream cell phone conversation via bluetooth directly into both of my hearing aids simultaneously and does not require a streamer. Phonak only streams into one hearing aid, not both (I need the extra boost of having the input to both ears in order to use the cell phone) and I believe with the Phonak you might still need a streamer device to use in conjunction with your cell phone. The Oticon OPN has been somewhat liberating.
    That’s been my experience. Depending on the computer/internet for most business and texting for conversations has been the way I have been able to navigate the best. Disappointed about the Caption phone, especially since it is free for us, I wish it worked better. I’m surprised but glad it is working well for you.

    • Hi Daeja. I’ve had similar experiences with my caption phone as I mentioned elsewhere on this thread. Though it’s better than nothing, I still don’t/can’t rely on it 100% ie: delays, inaccuracies, etc. Though I don’t need a phone for my living, my job options are cut because of it. In any case, the streaming could be a possibility for me. Mostly, hearing loss is a continuous challenge where we are always tweaking what we need. Exhausting but we have no other choice.

      • hi Susan. I agree how job options become limited. My job position relied on very heavy phone usage and meetings. Because of the type of phone system that my agency had in place, captioning was not compatible so not an option. I had amplification devices attached to my phone but it was not enough for me to be able to navigate through a conversation as my hearing continued to deteriorate over the years. I would have also needed CART reporter to use in meetings, which was prohibitively expensive. Because of this, I could no longer continue in my position.

        I am always thrilled when I find a website that has a “live chat” option with their customer service. you are right, it is a continuous challenge.

    • hi, Deaja: can you explain in detail how you get your “mobile service provider transcribes voicemail messages into text”?

      • hi Linda. My mobile service is Verizon Wireless, but I think many of the carriers are starting to provide this service. you used to have to pay for it but now it is free. If you contact your mobile carrier they can tell you. For me, I just checked a button in our account on the website and they turned it on for me. It’s been wonderful (and necessary) to see a transcribed version of a voicemail message pop up on my phone, because I cannot understand the voicemail recordings and find myself playing them over and over to frustration and often have to have someone else interpret my messages to me.

      • OK, I just looked it up, it’s called Visual Voicemail. and it says there is a charge of $2.99 a month. I don’t recall if I am paying for that (I thought it became free) but I would say it’s worth it either way….. they do it for both Android and iPhone options

      • Verizon does visual voice mail for $2.99 a month. Just see if your cell provider has it and their price and subscribe to it. It’s not a 100% accurate but it IS a godsend for sure. The voicemail left by people are put into text form so that I only have to go to my app to look at the voicemail left there. On my home screen for sure. Also, it shows that you have a message just like it would with a text. Hope your cell provider offers it.

  11. I had the Oticon streamer for 3 years and it worked well.. Only issue was remembering to keep it charged. My current solution though is the way to go in the future and that is having phone calls go directly to my hearing aids through an app on my iPhone. I bought Starkey’s last summer and downloaded its app for iPhones (I don’t know if they have it for Android or not).

    It is not perfect, the app is still in its early stages. But for phone calls it is a godsend. I actually have a 2 – 3 second warning that a call is coming before it rings. So it gives me time to get to the cell phone if it is not next to me. I can be in the other room and know that a phone call is about to come through.

    I also love listening to music when I walk my dog and it seamlessly plays my iTunes from my phone directly to my hearing aids. I am hoping Starkey is at the convention so that I can give some feedback and get some tips.

    • hi Mike. the hearing aids I just purchased (Oticon OPN) stream directly into the hearing aids from my iPhone without having to use any intermediary device, which is pretty nice. So far the only drawback I have found is that I blast through hearing aid batteries a lot faster during the times I am linked via bluetooth to the phone.

      • daeja, that is the big weakness of my Starkey’s as well. I am replacing batteries twice as fast as I used to when using my Oticon’s with the Streamer. Hopefully they work on that.

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