Brenda Lyle – Special to FLORIDA TODAY
Reader question: I’m having trouble hearing on the phone. Are there special phones for people with hearing loss?
Answer: In a word: YES! Many people with hearing loss do not realize that they may be eligible for a special type of telephone called “CapTel”–so keep reading. The screen displays the words from the caller while still allowing the speaker’s voice to be heard through the handset. The popularity of CapTel phones is increasing among aging Baby Boomers, in part because of the price: free.
A scientist, who himself experienced hearing loss, developed the first phone for hearing- impaired people in 1960. Dr. Robert Weitbrecht was a ham radio operator who experimented with ways to type messages back and forth between people who had hearing loss. In 1990, what we now know as “CapTel” was created, beginning the production of smaller phones for people to use at home by 2003.
You may have seen the CapTel system demonstrated on television commercials. The technology by CapTel is available in four different models, depending on the need of the user. Three of the four versions require internet access. The phone itself is free with a third-party certification of hearing loss by a health care professional, Veteran Services Officer or a hearing health professional. And a federally funded program pays for the captioning service for people with a hearing impairment!
If you prefer to buy the phone directly, without seeing a health care professional, you can also do that –for $75. There will be no additional costs on your phone bill to add the phone. The Captel phones are helpful for any degree of hearing loss. And there is also a version for people who have both hearing loss and decreased vision.
Orlando Fresse is the Accessibility Relationship Manager for CapTel from T-Mobile. He has seen the impact the specialized phones can make, for people who have struggled with hearing loss and the feeling of social isolation.
“So many people are missing their kids, grandchildren and friends,” said Fresse. “Whether separated by great distance or the pandemic, you can’t be face-to-face with all the people you love — and understanding them on the phone can be really tough for someone with hearing loss. These phones can truly be life changing.”
So, how can someone get a Cap-Tel phone? One Senior Place has the free phone application available through on-site hearing health professionals in both the Viera and Greater Orlando locations.
You can learn more information about the Captel phones online at captel.com or captelfromtmobile.com. Or simply call One Senior Place with your questions at 321-751-6771.
One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. To submit a question, send an email to askOSP@OneSeniorPlace.com or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging at OneSeniorPlace.com.
Brenda Lyle is a Certified Care Manager for One Senior Place, Greater Orlando.