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Hearing Aids

Captioning Telephones Free for Those with Hearing Difficulties

What is a captioning phone?

Captioning telephones work like a standard phone for the user but connect to the internet to gather captions of words spoken by the individual on the other end of the line. The captions are displayed on the base of the phone near the receiver. This is a great service for anyone with a measurable hearing loss. Talking on the phone with a hearing loss can be difficult, leading to isolation and social withdrawal. CaptionCall® works by showing the lines of speech on a screen, makes it much easier to fully understand the person on the other end of the line. People with hearing loss are able to gain an extra communication advantage through this device and program, and it’s free. The service is paid for by a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fund that fulfills a mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide functionally equivalent communication for those with hearing loss. Delivery and installation of the device are also free.

Act now while it’s still free

The CaptionCall phone, an assistive listening telephone previously available for free through a provision in the Americans with Disabilities Act, has, since October of last year, been costing customers $75 per phone.  Adults with difficulty hearing will once again have an opportunity to receive free help communicating on the phone with captioning telephones, thanks to a recent District of Columbia circuit court ruling. The recent court ruling has temporarily lifted this charge pending further review expected to take place this summer. If this is something that an individual with hearing loss may want, now is the time to act while it is still free.

The recent reversal of cost for the phone is due to a Stay Request filed by Sorenson Communications, Inc., the company that owns CaptionCall. The Stay Request was filed with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in October 2013 and was granted in January. The free CaptionCall offer will remain in effect at least until the summer, when the case is decided, according to the CaptionCall website. The outcome of the case will determine whether  CaptionCall will remain completely free or not.

We Can Help

Call your  AudigyCertified™ provider to schedule a hearing test to determine if you are a candidate for a free captioned telephone.

Categories
Hearing Loss

The McGurk Effect: Why You Should Look When People Speak

Even with hearing aids, living with hearing impairment can be challenging. That’s why it’s important to understand how you can make the most of your hearing ability. One of the easiest ways to do this is simply by watching a person’s lips when they are speaking.

The McGurk effect

Also known as the McGurk-MacDonald effect, this perceptual phenomenon occurs when a spoken syllable is paired with a different but similar lip movement. A listener will hear one syllable with their eyes closed, and another syllable as they watch a speaker’s lips.

In most classic McGurk experiments, the syllable in question is “ba.” When “ba” is visually synced with the lip movement of a different syllable, “da”, listeners will hear “ba” with their eyes closed and “da” when they watch the speaker’s lips. In fact, the change in sound is so strong that a listener will continue to hear “da” even after they know the speaker is actually saying “ba.”

If you want to see how this works (or if you aren’t buying it!), take a look at this video,

While the McGurk effect is a perceptual trick of sorts, it effectively demonstrates the relationship between hearing and seeing. Visual cues will affect what we hear and can easily make us second guess auditory information. According to a recent 2013 study conducted at the University of Utah, the overriding effect of visual cues can’t be turned off, either.

“We found vision is influencing the hearing part of the brain to change your perception of reality — and you can’t turn off the illusion,” says Elliot Smith, a bioengineering author of the study. “We’ve shown neural signals in the brain that should be driven by sound are being overridden by visual cues that say, ‘Hear this!’”

What the McGurk effect means for the hearing impaired

For the hearing-impaired to take full advantage of the McGurk effect and hear more precisely, they should always look at a speaker’s lips. By doing so, a listener is effectively bolstering their hearing ability with visual input, which can be much more reliable.

Conversely, the hearing impaired should not look away from a speaker during conversation — they could end up hearing something else entirely! (Which, as I’m sure we all know, happens fairly often.) Looking at a speaker and seeing what they’re saying is a simple but incredibly efficient listening technique that can greatly improve quality of life and allow hearing-impaired individuals to step smoothly into conversations with confidence.

Categories
Hearing Loss

Living with Hearing Loss: Effective Communication

In the words of Dr. Mark Ross, “When someone in the family has a hearing loss, the entire family has a hearing problem.” I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

A hearing-impaired individual has trouble communicating with his family because he can’t hear them, and his family has trouble communicating with him because they can’t get through to him. It is a two-sided problem, and it often results in an endless cycle of half-guessed responses and misunderstandings.

Living with hearing loss or living with someone who has hearing loss is difficult, even with hearing aids. That’s why assertive communication techniques can really help bridge the gap and bring families closer.

If you have hearing loss

Living with hearing loss is difficult, but it’s important to remember that it may be just as difficult for your family. In order to make sure that you can listen to what’s being said, you need to help speakers understand your condition. This means helping them manage expectations and devising communication strategies based on your family’s communication methods.

It helps to enter every conversation with a mindset of active and assertive communication rather than passive listening (even if you are just listening). This means:

•Asking what the topic of conversation is before joining, so as not to disrupt or annoy with unexpected tangents.

•Requesting repetition when you don’t hear something. There’s no shame in doing so when your family knows you have hearing loss.

•Requesting specific confirmations when you miss something rather than relying on general queries, like “What?” or “Huh?”

•Asking speakers to look at you when speaking.

•Asking speakers to spell out words when you can’t understand them.

•Asking speakers with an accent to write things down.

Additionally, individuals with hearing loss can internalize a number of useful preparation techniques that will help them enjoy excursions more. These include:

•Being aware of current events on your own, instead of relying on someone else to tell you the news. This will help you catch keywords and enter conversations smoothly.

•If you’re still working, make it a habit to review meeting agendas in advance.

•Read reviews of movies and plays before you watch them.

•Review the names of guests at a party before you arrive.

If your loved one has hearing loss

As a family member of someone who has hearing loss, your goal in communicating with them is to be as articulate and accurate as possible. This means that you can’t talk to this person the way you might talk to your friends — you need to be assertive and anticipatory while speaking. This means:

•Looking at the listener when speaking

•Speaking precisely and enunciating all your words

•Speaking slower than usual (“slowly” may be too exaggerated)

•Use gestures whenever possible

•Be reassuring and helpful rather than irritable and hurtful. In other words, avoid phrases like “Can you hear me now?” and “Did you hear me?” and patiently repeat what you said instead.

Remember: Living with hearing loss is difficult enough. Always try to be sympathetic and patient with someone who has hearing loss, even if they are being irritable or rude. It’s often a lot harder for them to hear you than it is for you to take the time to patiently speak with them.