Someone asked you, “What do you need?” Puzzled at first, you realize they want to provide accommodations. Any hard of hearing or deaf technology products to make things easier for you. While you stood there in a state of confusion, this was the first time you found yourself in this situation.
Finally, you feel seen because someone acknowledges your hearing loss and wants to help you. It’s starting to feel like you are at a fancy restaurant. But there’s a waiter this time, without you constantly having to do the heavy lifting to serve yourself and belong in these spaces.
When someone wants to accommodate us, we may not know all the offerings that could help us. We often don’t see what’s out there or can articulate our needs without knowing what is available. What if there’s a technology you don’t know about that could be a life-changer had you learned about it?
This article will share a menu of the available deaf technologies to support people with hearing loss. They don’t necessarily need to be assistive devices only for people with hearing loss; sometimes, they are for everybody and can do the necessary tasks.
Like many people with hearing loss, the home is an essential part of our lives and a place of comfort. If you’re a home or condo owner, your home can be one area where you have control over your space. With that option, many devices or technologies can help with home communication.
A few people on this planet still use a landline for their primary communication. They are wise not to be bothered with smartphones and mobile devices for an easy and simple life. Either way, there are ways to follow the conversations without saying “what?!” all the time.
Phones designed for hearing loss can be volume amplified or include real-time captioning, like InnoCaption. Additionally, sometimes the phone itself makes the automatic real-time transcription. Other times, using an IP Captioned Telephone Service, a 3rd-party listens to the call and provides you with the caption services. But unfortunately, you may be out of luck if you don’t live in the US. Because real-time caption phone services only serve the US because the government funds the companies that make the phone to give it free and accessible to the Deaf and hard of hearing community.
If sign language is your primary language and oral communication is not your thing, you would use a teletypewriter TTY many years ago. It allows a non-verbal communicator to make calls and relay text messages on a particular device to the caller on the other line through an agent.
Of course, smartphones have been used these days as a primary method, but the TTY service still exists. On the other hand, sometimes people use Video Relay Services instead of connecting with a 3rd party sign language translator or using the internet or their computer to send messages without the TTY.
With mobile phones and video chat tools, you can communicate via text or video instead of the phone. However, when it comes to calling a company like your bank or utility company, you may not be able to use text or video to communicate to reach customer services. In that case, you can benefit from apps that will give real-time captioning while you are on the phone. For example, brands like InnoCaption, Olelo and Phonak’s myCall-to-Text app for Phonak hearing aid users can help on your mobile phone.
Events and things happen that require your attention. Moreover, events like door knocks, telephone ringing, intruders, baby cries, smoke alarms or weather warnings are all communications that require the ability to listen to respond. Some devices on the market can assist with bringing your attention to particular sounds or keep you aware of your environment.
Finding television shows with sign language communication or tv with accessible closed captioning is not always available. So, if you wear hearing aids or cochlear implants, and your family is fed up with you turning the volume too high. In fact, you can either pair the audio from your tv with your hearing aid or get an external wireless speaker to bring the sound out more from your TV. Additionally, sometimes a device you can wear around your neck, like Behear gets you up and close to sounds right by you.
It’s not that we are forgetful but often, having the ability to hear noises can alert us to what’s happening around us. However, attention to everything at every minute of the hour with limited senses is problematic for anyone to achieve. Not only can the kitchen be a really noisy space, but sometimes we need extra help to keep us on track without damaging our homes.
The majority of fires start at the stove. Unfortunately, you may not smell the initial burnt that your food has caught fire because your nose is congested or your sense of smell isn’t that strong. Even more, some devices can be used to help you monitor your interaction with the stove or, in the case of not hearing the gas leaking, help you turn it off automatically.
Sometimes the stove timers are not the easiest to use if you can’t hear the high-frequency beeps. Hence, one way to overcome this is to use the timer on your app or a plug-in electric timer that connects to a lamp to let you know that your pot roast should be just about done.
Many traditional washing and drying machines have alarms to signal that a cycle has ended to help wash our clothes. Yet, these audio alarms are not accessible to people with hearing loss. Also, many people who do not have hearing loss can’t hear the noise from their laundry room far away. Therefore, modern smart washing machines can connect with you via your mobile phone and send alerts to inform you about your washing loads.
Fridges make all kinds of sounds communicating various messages that we would not know what’s happening. Sometimes smart refrigerators are needed to make sense of all those noises. These electronics come with an app to notify you of anything you need to be aware of.
Many people with hearing loss experience at one time leaving the tap water running. Soft and low-frequency sounds are hard to hear and can be missed for minutes or hours. OR too late when you walk into the water coming from another room. So while there are sound recognition features on apps, replacing all the faucets with an automatic motion faucet might be an option if budget is not concerned or if the place you are is not temporary. Consequently, if it is too late and water hits the floor, try using a water leak detector to notify you right from your app.
It’s hard to find a home security system that makes alarms silently. The purpose of the alarms is to warn the intruder that they have been caught. Sounding alarms let the homeowners and others around them know that a break-in has occurred. A warning that connects to your phone is an option.
The kettles that whistle have been a thing of the past. These days you can get a kettle that automatically turns off when the water reaches a hot boiling point.
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You may have difficulty following all the conversations at a meeting or in a group discussion. A device is needed to rescue you from the situation. I’ve seen people hack Google Meets or Microsoft Teams to get free captioning by pretending to be in a video conference call. Instead of being in a video meeting, it’s just you and the chatter in the background that converts voice to text.
Some apps will not be allowed if your company is strict about data privacy and recording conversation. For example, your app Google’s Live Transcribe, Meets, Ava or Otter.ai may not be banned in the workplace. Consider other brands like Streamer. If the budget holds, hire a hearing person to caption the conversation using Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART).
A Bluetooth speaker can help amplify the voices around the table or while you working from home that you can pair with your hearing aids and cochlear implants.
In-person meetings where everybody on the team gives a quick update on what can be difficult to capture and hear. Consider getting your supervisor to “pass the mic” using a device like a Roger Pen. The device, designed like a pen, has a microphone that can stream sound to your Phonak hearing aids. The person with the pen is only allowed to speak. It will eliminate the chatters and give clear audio right to your ears.
Call centers use desktop apps on the computer to bring one call after another to you if you’re employed to provide customer services. It does not use a landline phone. Using a T-Mobile IP Relay on your computer is helpful for Deaf Americans working in call centers. To make a call with an oral speaker, you can use a 3rd party operator or translator to pass the text message to the call.
Other options are using your Bluetooth hearing aids to stream audio to and from your smart desktop computer. If your company allows it, you can stream and forward calls to your smartphone that you are comfortable using. WebCaptioner on Google Chrome web browser is another real-time captioning tool. It can capture the audio from the computer and give you the option to read what the caller is saying. Another option is to use a headset. Usually, a gaming headset is often preferred to cover the hearing aids and prevent soreness and whistling when wearing your hearing aids.
Suppose the earpiece of your employer’s walkie-talkies is throwing you off. You can request your employers to accommodate you with walkie-talkies to connect to your hearing aids or cochlear implants. Some walkie-talkies can insert a Bluetooth adapter or loop or a telecoil loop. In addition, some walkie-talkies have texting features found in brands like Motorola.
Many health professionals with hearing loss look for stethoscopes to help them take their patients’ vitals. However, one critical skill for using stethoscopes was to hear. Many deaf and hard-of-hearing professionals can use stethoscopes with increased volume (and, if you prefer, remove their hearing aids). Furthermore, you can use Bluetooth features to connect with the hearing aids.
Working in the manufacturing industry is a popular job choice for people with hearing loss. Despite the noisy environment, being aware of moving objects like forklifts uses visual lights and backup mirrors to navigate the floors. Even more, you can find haptic or vibration tools to assist with a barcode scanners to keep you on time and achieve your daily quota.
While heading out for an evening show, accommodation requests can be made at some performance and movie theatres. Two available accommodations are a portable closed captioning device that attaches to the cup holder or wearable glasses that caption text in your view. These devices may require a request to lend in advance. In some movie theatres, you can get captioning on the screen. Again, you may be able to request in advance or attend at a designated screening time.
Some performance theatres have telecoil communication. You can use your hearing aids or cochlear implant to stream the sound to your hearing aids using the t-switch on your device. In addition, some theatres provide captioning during live performances using either an overhead screen or a side prompter like Galapro for designated seats.
The sound creates a gaming experience for gamers but is not inclusive for people with hearing loss. However, you have many options to get the sound experience too. Either using a wearable vest that allows you to feel the sound or just using a headset to amplify the sound right to your ears.
If you are attending a museum and are worried about guided audio tours, you can enjoy the educational experience. Some museums will be equipped with a hearing-compatible neck loop or FM System to pair your hearing aids or cochlear implant to help you hear clearly. Others might use Signly to help provide ASL translation utilizing a QR code and prerecorded messages.
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Laws prevent people with hearing loss from driving depending on which country they live in or the type of vehicle they drive. Living in a country that allows you to drive is something to be grateful for. There’s no reason to exclude us from being able to drive. Hearing loss is not related to driving competencies.
At the same time, car manufacturers have been designing cars to make the interior quiet for many years. As a result, it has become increasingly difficult for people with hearing loss to hear inside a vehicle. Even some hearing people miss hearing the sounds of sirens and car horns under their peaceful oasis. Hyundai in Japan built the first model that uses a visual display to communicate audio sounds to drivers. Even smart cars, like Tesla, are adding sound recognition features. Detecting sounds can help automated vehicles automatically pull over or slow down when a police or ambulance are nearby.
The next time you drive from the east coast to the west coast, you won’t need to print off the map and study your route, or worst, create post-it notes on your dashboard to remind yourself of all the exits you need to take. Enhanced Visual Cues AmiGO, TomTom’s free navigation app, can convert voice instructions into a more accessible visual representation. Hearing voice instructions would be troublesome in a noisy traffic area or while listening to music simultaneously. Instead, you’ll get the dashboard’s visual cues that are enough to catch your attention but direct you where you need to go.
Chatting or asking questions to an attendant or cashier is essential to getting the service you need without using a pen and paper. Using a remote Video Relay Service to get a sign language translator to assist with communicating. Hearing loops can be found at the counter for some stores and public spaces to pair with your hearing aids.
Many churches have been making accommodations for people with hearing loss. Typically for those with hearing aids or cochlear implants, some churches have loop systems. Moreover, you’ll hear the sound right from the lectern’s microphone heading straight to your ears. If they don’t, some people are using a speech-to-text app.
When you have a hearing disability, you’re more open to deaf technology products to help you live a productive life. These devices are your lifeline to managing your spaces and environment with ease.
As you move through life, you’re constantly seeking new devices. You want technologies that you use to help you at work, at home or during your recreational life. Unfortunately, knowing about the various available technologies is not easily accessible. Here at Lisnen, we provide you with all the tools you could benefit from to support your day-to-day life.
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