Tag Archives: CapTel

Support for Employees and Students with Hearing Loss or Deafness

Just because someone has hearing loss or deafness doesn’t mean they know which equipment could help them adapt to a world with many sounds.

For example, someone who always used a radio alarm clock who suddenly has hearing loss, wouldn’t know that there’s a technology solution–the vibrating and/or light flashing alarm clock! Most people with hearing loss or deafness have hearing families, so they may not have known about ways technology helps us adapt.

Kudos to Harris Communications for providing a handy question-and-answer page for people with hearing loss and their needs.

While Harris makes some recommendations–and they have useful products–I have additional recommendations.

Amplified, Captioned, and Video Phones

Black and white picture of a young Bob Hope on the telephone.
Do you know if your phone system produces quality sound, or are you just Hope-ful it does? photo credit: classic_film Bob Hope, on the Phone, circa 1940s-1950s via photopin (license)

Harris’ first topic was Staying in Touch and they recommended an amplified phone, the Panasonic KX-TGM450S Amplified Phone. Many people use only cell phones. If you need a cell phone, what kind do you get?

Test friend and family members’ phones to see which provide the clearest amplification for you. Which ones sound fuzzy? Which don’t provide enough volume? While I used to use Nokia phones to get enough volume, now Samsung phones have better sound–for me. See which works best for you.

While amplification works for many, it doesn’t give me the accuracy I need to communicate with strangers or conduct work. For those, a captioned phone works. Harris Communications offers captioned phones, though many people qualify for free captioned phones or video phones (for using sign language and/or seeing speakers). Below are some vendors that may provide a phone free to you.

I’ve used both Captioncall and CapTel phones and while the captioning isn’t perfect and can be slow, most of the time it’s a benefit–and the captioned phones can also be programmed to suit your type of hearing loss. They also provide super amplification that is appropriate only for people with hearing loss and isn’t provided with standard phones.

Man talks on cell phone looking at big picture of a man.
Seeing people on video makes it easier to communicate because you can read their lips too. photo credit: dalioPhoto face time at 53rd st via photopin (license)

Video phones assist for those who use sign language. People may make or receive calls using a video phone. If you’re the employer of someone who uses sign language, then your employee may have this type of phone, but they might need one for the office. In some cases, it’s free.

Captioned and video phones need special assistance to be wired into an office’s existing system, but I’ve had this done. Support from any of the companies below will assist with the process.

Free Video Phones

Captioned Phones

Skype, Face Time, Google Hangouts, or other Video Chat

One of the reasons employees or students with hearing loss can’t hear as well on the phone is because the quality of sound is less than in real life. Also, we often read lips–whether we know it or not.

Video chat offers people with hearing loss the chance to hear and see what’s said. There’s also usually a chat option so what’s not heard can be typed.

If you’re the employer of someone who uses sign language, they probably use some video communication methods like Face Time.

Ask your employee or student for the best way for you to communicate with them–and don’t pressure them to do what’s most convenient for you. They make extra effort for many interactions, not just the ones with you.

Alarms and Watches

Picture of digital alarm clock and person lying in bed ready to hit alarm clock with a hammer.
Common alarm clocks don’t usually bother people with hearing loss–in fact, they may not work! photo credit: purplemattfish Permanent Snooze – Day 114, Year 2 via photopin (license)

Harris’ second topic was Being on Time. Many people with hearing loss say it’s difficult to wake up because their cell phone, watch, and/or radio alarms don’t do the job.

Enter the vibrating, flashing, or light alarms. Harris Communications recommends the Sonic Alert Sonic Boom Super Shaker Bluetooth Bed Shaker. This vibrating device is controlled by your cell phone. A vibrating disc is set under the mattress and shakes the bed when the alarm goes off.

I prefer a physical clock. My first vibrating alarm clock was the Sonic Alert Boom, but it only had a single alarm! I could have bought one with dual alarms for $5 more.

My advice is to seek a dual alarm. The Sonic Alert Boom clocks come with a vibrating device that slides under the mattress. I can’t feel the device through the mattress–until it vibrates at the appointed time. It can wake me up. Make sure that the alarm you want comes with bed shaker and isn’t a separate purchase.

Now, I have the Sonic Alert Sonic Bomb Jr, which has dual alarms and a stronger sound that I can program to be in my hearing range (a deeper buzzer). While the sound won’t wake me up by itself, once I’m awake, it keeps me from snoozing too long. The clock also has a snooze button. It has a flashing light that if placed in front of you may also help. This alarm clock has stronger signals than the Sonic Alert Boom, so I recommend this one.

They also make travel alarms with bed shakers. I have the Sonic Alert Traveler. It’s not as strong as the other alarm clocks, but better than nothing when I travel!

To supplement a travel alarm clock, I order an ADA kit for my hotel rooms, which should include a flashing door bell alarm. Tip: ask for the manager if hotel staff don’t know where it is. Hotels are required to have this.

Then, I order room service coffee when I need to wake up, so the flashing door bell when they bring me coffee is a second way to wake up. The ADA kits have vibrating alarms, but I haven’t programmed one of those correctly, so I bring mine.

If you’re used to waking up with your watch alarm, Harris has a series of vibrating watches, including a smart watch.

There are more options for waking up, including alarms that gradually lighten the room.

Picture of a professional quality alarm clock with flashing light fire alerts.
This alarm is accessible for those with hearing loss or deafness because it flashes when it goes off. photo credit: Amarand Agasi Displaced via photopin (license)

Devices can be connected to door bells and fire alarms, creating a complex system of light signals for the home, office, or classroom.

Sleep Assistance Technology

People with hearing loss may have tinnitus, which is a ringing or buzzing in the ears. Devices with sounds may assist with this. Harris Communications recommends the Sound Oasis Therapy Machine. Some of the sounds the machine makes may mask the sounds of tinnitus.

I have tinnitus and it can disrupt sleep. Some eye drops, and some medications cause my ears to ring loudly. Whenever the ringing gets out of control, I examine what I put in my mouth or on my body that was new and different that day. Most of the time, when I stop using the new vitamin, medicine, or eye drops, the tinnitus gets quieter.

Picture of sunset with waves skimming over rocks in the water.
Ocean waves are one of the many sounds that may combat tinnitus. photo credit: tdlucas5000 Dawn Breaking on a New Year via photopin (license)

My old-school method for out-of-control tinnitus was to play music or leave a TV running with sound because tinnitus is less disruptive with other sounds. I also read to get my mind off the noise. Wearing hearing aids reduces the disruption for some, while others say it makes tinnitus worse. There are tinnitus vitamins on the market, but the two I tried made it worse.

Other Cool Devices

Notification Systems

Besides the devices I mentioned, there are a variety of tools to use. A light flashing device can be connected to your door bell or vibrating alarm clock. Check out Harris Communication’s Notification Systems, which include these visual light signalers, as well as baby crying and fire alarms for people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.

Cell Phone Accessories

There’s another device that lights up when your cell phone rings. I had this one, but it went off too often because it was triggered by my cell’s email notifications too, but there are other brands and Cell Phone Accessories here, including bluetooth loops.

Paging Systems

a man talks on a walkie talkie
Notice how this man has to hold the walkie talkie up to his ear. Employees with hearing loss may not be able to use traditional walkie talkies. photo credit: Oneras watchman via photopin (license)

Many businesses are concerned about the ability to reach their employees, especially if they use on-site radios, such as in technical facilities. One option is for them to text you and you to have a lighting, vibrating alert set. Another option is a lighting, two-way personal pager system.


Big sign reads blah, blah, blah perhaps 100 times.
This is how your meetings could sound to employees or students without interpreters, captioners, or assistive technology. photo credit: Metropolico.org Blabla via photopin (license)

The old school option is to sit closest to the main speaker. However, in classrooms and at meetings, often many people speak, sometimes from across the room or from behind, cutting off a person’s ability to read their lips or capture quality sound.

Man writes man formulas on a chalkboard.
While this teacher is speaking at the blackboard, students with hearing loss are hearing next to nothing. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst) photo credit: World Bank Photo Collection A student solves a mathematics equation at the Mfantsipim Boys School in Cape Coast via photopin (license)

Speakers may also turn their back to the audience, disabling any lip reading, which is essential to people using their vision to supplement hearing loss or deafness.

At the bare minimum, a person with hearing loss would need to sit within a few feet of the main speaker. They need an agenda, outline, and/or handouts beforehand to assist them with determining what topics are being discussed–these make lipreading easier. Speakers should always face the audience, not turn away. Any videos or TV should be captioned.

Woman's face and text below reads, Does your life have meaning?
Captioned films have a lot more meaning for people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. photo credit: via photopin (license)

If you use a TV for your presentation, televisions since the 1990’s have captioning capability. Enable it. Learn how to do this before the meeting since doing this for the first time can take a while or may be incredibly fast. Don’t try to make it pretty, if it has those options. All caps with a black background offers good visibility. Make sure the person needing captions sits close enough to the TV to read them easily–even if they need to change seats to do so. Reserving an extra viewing seat near the TV makes it easier to offer this accommodation.

If you show videos from YouTube, make sure that when you click the captioning option on the video, that captions are on the video. If the video doesn’t have captions, select another video with a similar topic that does. YouTube has many videos to select from, even for the exact same topic. They also have the option for you to create captions for your own video content.

If you bring DVDs or even older VHS tapes, ensure that they have captions. Look on the back of the box for clues. Does the box say “CC” for Closed Captioned, or does it say it includes “Subtitles for People who are Hard of Hearing”? Sometimes you have to look hard for it. Westerns, music videos, and Discovery Channel products are notorious for not providing captioned content, so be on the lookout.

While at first using captions is different, many people who think they hear well discover that they have missed many words the captions show them. Captioned videos are a tool that benefit more employees or students than you realize!

Adult puts a blue hearing aid on a young girl.
Children with hearing loss have fewer strategies for adapting and benefit from creative solutions. photo credit: bundesinnung_ha Kind, Hinter-Ohr-Gerät-Anpassung. Copyright: biha, 2015 via photopin (license)

If your employee or student is functionally deaf, and a good sign is if they use sign language, then a sign language interpreter may be required for the entire meeting. The interpreter would request captions for videos. Ask your employee what they need, again, without pressure from you about the costs. We can save money many ways, but let it not be in ways that discriminate employees and students.

Picture card showing sign language
How many ways are there to sign? Apparently, less and less with the widespread use of American Sign Language. photo credit: Positive signs via photopin (license)

In some cases, a student or employee may be functionally deaf but not know sign language. If this is true, live captioning, or CART, can be requested and a person with a stenography kit can type what is said at the rate of 250 words or so a minute. This is if your content is involved. In many cases, a note taker won’t work well unless they’ve been trained.

Capsule and Sign Shares' LogosDo you need to request a sign language interpreter or CART? Contact Sign Shares 24/7/365 and we can help.

Loops and Assistive Listening Devices

A loop is a system that can feed sound directly into a person’s hearing aid, offering them a chance at direct sound. Portable loops enable them to take the device from place to place.

I’ve used three portable loops for work and school. My favorite was from Williams Sound. I take it with me, push a button on my hearing aids and a button on the loop and we’re connected and I hear more clearly those sounds around me, which is better for small group participation in a large room, when I need to hear the people near me most.

Picture of assistive listening devices, boxes that have small microphone
Assistive listening devices communicate to one another via FM, making clearer sound. photo credit: http://www.audio-luci-store.it set 9000 via photopin (license)

Assistive Listening Devices, called ALDs, are generally more appropriate for people with mild to moderate hearing loss, but there are a few options for those with greater hearing loss.

These devices generally use two devices. One receives sound, the other transmits it. They communicate to each other via FM radio, which means the sound from one box to the other is pure.

ALDs work well in classrooms, meetings, and churches, when the speaker wears the transmitter and the person with hearing loss holds or wears the receiver. Since the receivers often have microphones too, it’s possible at times to need only the receiver.

When I was in college, my hearing loss was moderate, and the college provided me with a Williams Sound Pocketalker Pro. I had to remove one of my hearing aids to use it but I was blown away with the superiority of this sound over my hearing aids in a classroom. Wow. The microphone on the device is awesome. Buy an extra windscreen if you purchase one of these. Since the microphone sticks out, the microphone cover, or windscreen, gets the most wear and tear.

When teaching with severe hearing loss, I used the Comfort Audio Contego FM system with a neck loop so I didn’t have to keep track of my receiver–I wore it around my neck. My transmitter was placed at the back of the classroom or near a group of students I wanted to hear best. Both the transmitter and receiver paired with my hearing aids, so I didn’t have to remove them.

At this level of hearing loss, it was a temporary and not a permanent solution, but it was better than using hearing aids alone.

The Comfort Audio Contego FM system would work well for someone with mild to moderate hearing loss, but I would recommend the Pocketalker first, since it’s an affordable, quality product with great amplification and clarity.

Old School Tools


Picture of a mirror on a wall.
Mirrors allow people with hearing loss or deafness to see the world that makes sounds behind them. photo credit: judy dean Hotel room via photopin (license)

One of the cheapest assistive technology items for someone with hearing loss in an office or home is a mirror. Since people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing often don’t hear people approach, or know when someone is standing behind them, this leads to shock and sometimes a surprised scream when co-workers magically appear.

Place a mirror on the wall in front of your normal work stations and you can catch movement behind you and have less surprises by co-workers whose approaching footsteps you can’t hear. There are doormats that flash lights when people enter the room if this is a bigger problem than a mirror can solve.

Office/Work Space Organization

Two people sit in an office at their computers, the door is behind them so they face it sideways, not directly.
These office desks aren’t ideally suited for someone with hearing loss or deafness because they don’t face the door. The open space could be an advantage if the environment isn’t loud. If it is, extra noise could make it more difficult for a person with hearing loss to hear. photo credit: World Bank Photo Collection Yosr works as a consultant for an export promotion agency via photopin (license)

Ideally, if you have hearing loss or deafness, placing your desk or chair facing the door or the most co-workers is the best option. If you have an enclosed office, then placing the desk with your back to the wall and face facing the door will help. If you have a work area that is too noisy, request a quieter area where it will be less stressful to communicate.

Learn Some Sign Language

Physicians like Doctor Strange here who are friendly with those who use sign language stand out like local superheroes. photo credit: Strange Magicks via photopin (license)
Physicians like Doctor Strange here who are friendly with those who use sign language stand out like local superheroes. photo credit: Strange Magicks via photopin (license)

There are places online where you can learn some sign language, and there are also sign language dictionaries. If you and the employee or student share some signs, it cuts down on confusion and miscommunication. Every location has specific vocabulary and necessary emergency signals, plus there are common communication signs that could benefit anyone with hearing loss or deafness and create a welcoming environment.

Lifeprint.com has an ASL University that has videos teaching sign language for free. Here is the 100 First Signs.

Want to learn some specific words in sign language? Use a sign language dictionary!

Signing Savvy has an extensive American Sign Language dictionary. You can also use Google to help you find words in sign language by typing the word you want + American Sign Language.

Disclaimer: While I mention products from Harris Communications, I was not paid by them nor do I receive any funds for my reviews. I don’t and have never worked for them. I have purchased several products from them and am thankful that Harris Communications has been a one-stop shop for me and others who have hearing loss or deafness.





Why do People Need CART?

Like sign language, Communication Access Realtime Translation, or CART, may be used as an accommodation for individuals or groups of people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing at live events, in public places, at government proceedings, in classrooms, or where the need arises.

Two girls speak in sign language.
Some children with hearing loss are mainstreamed and don’t learn sign language. photo credit: Learning sign language via photopin (license)

CART may be needed when people who are Hard of Hearing or Deaf:

  • need to receive communication information;
  • amplification alone isn’t sufficient;
  • precise word choice matters, such as in meetings or during class,
  • when they need extra time to review spoken language, and/or,
  • they don’t know or prefer sign language.

Avoid making assumptions about hearing loss or deafness

When a person has a hearing aid, assistive listening device, or cochlear implant, those devices don’t make communication perfectly clear. They are machines with limitations.

Some people with hearing loss speak as if they can hear and may read lips. Because of their speech, assumptions are made about their hearing, while their speech doesn’t reflect their hearing. It is possible to be deaf and speak.

Lipreading is not exact, and is dependent on the individual’s skill at reading lips, the accents and methods of pronunciation used by each speaker, and distractions. Lipreading is hindered by distance from the speakers, inability to see the lips, and darkness or low lighting.

People who prefer and use sign language may use CART too, particularly when they need transcripts to digest what was said.

Statue of Liberty holds up torch and seagull flies overhead
Whenever possible, offer the individual freedom of choice regarding their accommodations. photo credit: New York – Liberty Island “Statue of Liberty & Seagull” via photopin (license)

Trust the individual to know or learn what accommodations they need to adapt to their environment, which is always changing.

How often is CART needed?

Few people use CART daily, but rather, as a part of their communication tools. A similar tool that many who use CART use is the captioned telephone, currently a free service for individuals who provide documentation of their hearing loss or deafness.

However, during intense language sessions, such as during meetings, conferences, training, classes at school or college, CART may be needed for longer periods of time and with greater regularity.

Sign language and CART provide some of the fastest communication access.

One woman takes notes for another.
Note taking is a lower-tech option for accessibility. It is much slower than CART, so more information is lost. photo credit: Design as Inquiry – Socially shared PLEs via photopin (license)

Note taking, an older form of accommodation for people with hearing loss or deafness, is dependent on the point-of-view of the note taker, who may not know what notes are most important. Without specialized shorthand equipment, note taking is slower. As a result, information can be lost.

CART providers can work from different locations

CART providers may work in close proximity to the individual or group, or they work may remotely, listening to what is said via computer or phone. Some webinars and online events provide CART as an accommodation for those who are Hard of Hearing or Deaf.

In classroom settings and other situations when an overhead projector or technical vocabulary is used, or when computers are used in combination with lecture, the CART provider would be at a disadvantage working remotely because they couldn’t see what is referred to when someone says, “Look at this” or “See this here.”

In live situations, when the CART provider is unclear about what is said, they ask questions for clarification. This isn’t possible remotely.

CART transcripts

Notebook with many pages
CART transcripts can serve as part of the student’s notebook to study for tests. photo credit: english note book via photopin (license)

The person who is Hard of Hearing or Deaf may request a transcript from the CART provider. Since what is typed is only seen for a few seconds or minutes, and also because the person requesting CART may be reading lips and processing ideas while reading CART, transcripts give consumers the chance to review content and remember or learn it.

CART transcripts may be essential for student success.

When CART may not be appropriate

Even advanced readers may have difficulty with CART, because people may speak quickly, causing many words to cross the screen rapidly. While not terrible for a few minutes, this could become overwhelming.

Some people know or are more comfortable with sign language. They may have learned sign language first, and are more comfortable with symbolic or iconic language, as opposed to print, which is based on spoken—and heard—language.

CART should not be requested for an individual based on an assumption that the person may prefer it.

When possible, government recommendations are to accommodate individuals based on their requests. They have determined their needs based on experience that the event organizer, business leader, or teacher should weigh heavily during decision making.

When CART is the preference

Others may not know sign language or are more comfortable with CART. In some cases, sign language or CART is preferable because of the individual’s style.

Amplification with devices such as assistive listening devices, note takers, and close seating with a view of the speaker are other accommodations that might be requested in combination with CART.

One law student and blogger who is Deaf debated the use of interpreters versus CART for law classes, showing how each experience differs. The blog post shows the intricacies—and the humanity—involved in receiving communication support.

How Sign Shares uses CART in the office

Sign Shares, Inc./International provides CART, or Communication Access Realtime Translation, as one of the communication options available for people with hearing loss or deafness.

Some staff members at Sign Shares benefit from using CART during meetings and events, while others prefer sign language. Sign Shares honors staff requests.

Requesting a CART provider

Do you need CART for an event, class, meeting, or other auditory experience? Request CART from Sign Shares here.

More information about CART

Yesterday’s blog shared about What is CART?