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Captioned phones help those with hearing loss stay connected

Published On: Aug 27 2013 03:21:30 PM CDT   Updated On: Sep 13 2013 10:32:46 AM CDT
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(NewsUSA) - Every conversation is challenging. Words are muffled and heard only indistinctly. They are forced to ask people to repeat themselves, and in many cases try to fake their way through a conversation. This is the world of the hard-of-hearing.

According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, about 20 percent or 48 million people report some degree of hearing loss. While face-to-face interaction is difficult at best, telephone conversations can be the stuff of nightmares.

"I went to the VA, and I found out that the problems I have with my hearing were caused partially through the explosions [from the war]," says World War II veteran Don Pullan, 89, of Salt Lake City. "It was difficult to have a simple conversation with my two daughters over the phone."

While hearing aids do an "excellent job of helping people meet many of their communication needs," sometimes more is needed," adds Dr. Sergei Kochkin, a board member and executive director of the Better Hearing Institute in Washington, D.C.

"There are situations where additional assistive listening devices are needed," he says. "Some hearing aid users continue to experience difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments, such as in a restaurant, from a distance, or while listening on the telephone."

To this end, one company is helping to break the silence for those who have trouble hearing.

Salt Lake City-based CaptionCall created a new telephone that allows hard-of-hearing users to follow conversations on their phone much like they would closed-captioning television.

CaptionCall uses voice recognition technology and a transcription service to display written captions of what callers say on a large screen. The service is provided free to all qualified individuals as a result of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Customers make and receive calls as they always have. All that is required to use CaptionCall is a high-speed Internet connection, a standard home phone line and medically recognized hearing loss.

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