A guide to captioned phones for seniors
What are captioned phones?
Captioned telephones are normal phones, with a screen that displays text captions of the conversation as it happens. During a call, the captioned phone connects to a Captioned Telephone Service (CTS). The individuals on the call will be able to hear each other just as with a normal phone, but the person with the captioned phone will have the additional benefit of reading the transcribed conversation as recognized by CTS voice recognition technology. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 guarantees that any person who is deaf or hard of hearing can access CTS free of charge.
How can I get a captioned phone?
Anyone with a hearing loss that impairs their ability to use a traditional telephone may be an eligible candidate for a captioned phone. To check your eligibility, consult with a hearing care professional or a captioned telephone retailer. There are numerous captioned telephones available from different companies. You can purchase one for yourself directly from websites or local retailers.
Many people, particularly seniors, qualify for special state programs where they can obtain a captioned phone at a reduced rate or for free (note that some of these programs will require a certification form signed by a hearing or health care professional). Be sure to check with a local hearing care provider or area disabilities service to see if this might be available to you. Some providers will also offer free delivery, installation, set-up and user training.
Examples of captioned phones:
CaptionCall: CaptionCall offers great captioning and a direct connection for those with hearing aids. It also allows users to save conversations and previous volume settings.
CapTel: CapTel is a telephone that creates captions at the push of a button. There are two options available, one for those with WiFi and one for those with a standard analog phone. They also have models for those with low vision.
ClearCaptions: The Ensemble™ with ClearCaptions is a home phone that displays captions in real-time on a large color touchscreen. It also allows for customized text sizing, a speakerphone for hands-free calling and a built-in answering machine.
Are there caption apps for smartphones and tablets?
Yes, there are currently multiple smartphone apps that provide captions when making a call, but some of these options have fees or require a purchase. Here are a few examples:
InnoCaption+ (Android and iOS/Apple)
Text Hear (Android and iOS/Apple)
LiveCaption (iOS/Apple only)
eyeHear (iOS/Apple only)
Should I be concerned about privacy?
Fortunately, all captioned phone service providers are federally regulated and have strict confidentiality obligations for all users. It is generally mandated that no records of any call content are recorded or stored by providers.
What to expect with a captioned telephone:
Captioned telephones are relatively inexpensive, easy to use and can be used with hearing aids or without. The most frequently reported complaint about these phones is that there can be a slight delay between when words are spoken and when they are transcribed, but this delay is very brief in current models. After years of worrying they'd have to pretend they understood what was said, the majority of users usually report that these phones make them feel confident calling their friends and family again!