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Closed captioning for your telephone

BY JEFFREY L. BAYLIFF

During our virus closures and movement restrictions I thought it would be a perfect time to educate our hearing impaired community members and their families about a free service that is available to bring closed captioning to your telephones.

Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), funds are set aside to help people with hearing loss effectively use the telephone.

Caption calling is an FCC-authorized captioned telephone service and is funded by the Interstate Telecommunications Relay Service Fund, which is administered by the Federal Communications Commission, (FCC) for providing the captioning service. Caption calling works a lot like closed-caption television. It uses the most advanced voice recognition technology and a fast transcription service to display written captions of what a caller is saying on a large, easy-to-read screen telephone.

With the caption calling phone, you can hear and read what the other person is saying. The caption calling phone displays big, easy-to-read text that automatically scrolls during your conversation plus, you can amplify the sound to better hear your caller’s voice with superb audio quality. It dials, rings, and works just like a regular phone.

There are a number of companies that provide these phones and the captioning services and they are all free and cannot charge by law. They are reimbursed by the federal government. If you have a hearing impairment that makes it difficult for you to use the phone, and if captions would allow you to use the phone more effectively, then caption calling is for you. This phone is intended for people experiencing hearing loss, regardless of the cause. This might include illness, injury, loud working conditions, military service, or simply getting older.

You yourself may not realize you are experiencing hearing loss. If you find yourself asking people to repeat themselves, or if people complain you don’t hear them on the phone or keep the radio or TV too loud, you may have hearing loss. A professional hearing test can confirm the frequencies that are difficult for you to hear and recommend options that might help you manage a hearing loss.

To be eligible and use caption calling, you must have: hearing loss that necessitates the use of captioned telephone service, a high-speed internet connection, a self-certification and professional certification that you have a hearing loss that requires the use of captions to use the telephone as well as mandatory registration information must also be provided before you can use the captioning service. Federal requirements require that each individual who qualifies for the program provide the following certification that you have a hearing loss that necessitates use of captioned telephone service; that you understand captions on the captioned telephone service are provided by a communications assistant who listens to the other party on the line to provide the text on the captioned phone; that you understand that the captioning service is funded through a federal program; that you will not permit, to the best of your ability, persons who have not been registered to use caption calling to make captioned telephone calls.

In addition to this self certification a hearing professional must sign that you have taken a hearing test and need the device and service. Hearing test costs vary from clinic to clinic. Caption services and phoneproducts are typically available through hearing health care professionals who receive no compensation to assist the hearing impaired with these tools. Some clinics are slow to help those who don’t buy hearing aids, while others will help any hearing impaired person regardless of hearing aid purchases.

You, or your children could find out more by searching online for “closed captioning telephones,” or by contacting a local hearing health care provider. We are praying with you all during these difficult days.

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Jeffrey L. Bayliff, NBC-HIS, is owner of Hear the Birds Hearing Aid Center, Lock Haven, Pa.

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