Captioned Telephones

Have you ever wondered how people who are hard of hearing talk on the phone? There are several captioned telephone services available for people in the USA with hearing loss, most commonly CapTel and Caption Call. Without captions, people with severe to profound hearing loss often struggle with understanding phone conversations, since they lack visual cues such as lip movements and facial expressions.

What are captioned telephones?

CapTel telephone
Example of CapTel captioned telephone

Captioned telephones operate just like a normal telephone. The phone receiver will still transmit the sound from the people on the call. However, the captioned phone will provide text of the spoken words so the person with hearing loss can read and better understand what was said. Traditionally, captioning was only available for landlines, but there are now some mobile options available as well. For example, Caption Call has an app for smartphones or tablets that can provide call captioning.

How do captioned telephones work?

Most captioned phones require a connection to the internet, however a few analog varieties are still available. Phone calls will be transcribed by a live captioning agent that is listening in on the call. This agent is regulated by the FCC and must follow strict confidentiality guidelines. They do not store any call information and internet-based captioning is encrypted and secure.

To make a phone call on a captioned telephone, pick up the receiver and dial the number you’d like to call. The call will automatically connect with a captioning service. When the person you have dialed speaks, a specially trained transcriptionist will create captions in real-time. Those captions will appear on the screen of the captioned phone.

To get captioning on incoming calls, check with your captioned phone service provider. Callers may have to dial a toll-free number before entering your phone number to start the captioning service. Otherwise, there may be a button on your caption phone you need to push to activate captioning, or it may simply be automatic. This will depend on your service provider and on your specific captioned phone.

How do I get a captioned telephone? How much does it Cost?

For qualified individuals, captioned telephones are provided free of charge. The caption phone, installation, and transcription service is all provided at no additional charge to the end user. The service is administered by the FCC and funded by a surcharge on all telephone bills.

In order to qualify, a licensed audiologist or doctor must certify your hearing loss and your need for captioning on telephone calls. They will then fill out a form that will be submitted to the captioning company. Once approved and processed, the caption company will contact you to gather additional information and set up a time for installation.

If you believe your hearing loss necessitates captioning on telephone calls, contact your audiologist to get started with a captioned telephone service.

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