Who Knew Technology Was Our Friend?

June 16, 2017. A few weeks ago, my husband brought out an old movie on VHS we’d never gotten around to watching, ‘A Chorus Line’, filmed in 1985.  For someone who uses subtitles for any programming, this was painful.  There are no subtitles on VHS format tape, and as the tape was so old, it wasn’t the best in sound quality either.  I understood perhaps 1 word in 20!

I’m not big on technology.  I still write snail mail letters.  I read paper books.  I prefer face-to-face conversations, and am always ready to chat over a cup of coffee.  That being said, when you are hard of hearing, you embrace and celebrate technological advances.  Remember the days BEFORE email, texting, captioning services, improvements in hearing aids, cochlear implants?  I marvel at how life with hearing loss has improved!

These days there are many technology-based options that can help the hard of hearing to maintain independence and active lives.  With the large number of portable devices used, such as smart phones, and tablets, did you know that there are even apps that can be downloaded on to these devices?

One such app is a live captioning tool that works with voice recognition, available for a modest price of about $7 (see http://www.livecaptionapp.com/). Here’s an example of its use…you’re in a restaurant, but can’t hear what your server is saying.  Turn on the app, and ask the server to speak directly into your smart phone.  Whatever is said then shows up on your screen.  It’s that easy to use.

I’ve tried a number of voice recognition software.  Most of the time, what comes out is unrecognizable, so I was dubious about this inexpensive app.  However, when we tried it in a legal office, what the lawyer said was captured onscreen, with only a few errors. The text is editable, which is an advantage.

The software works on android phones and tablets, as well as iphones and ipads, and most Bluetooth devices.  It can be adjusted to different languages, and the size of text showing up on your screen can also be altered.

The app is not usable for transcribing phone calls, and may have difficulty correctly transcribing children’s voices and accents.  Because it’s designed to help you identify what is being said, there is no option to directly save the text.  While you can copy and paste it to another format, that adds a bit more work and may not be practical.

The app works with an internet connection.  This isn’t a problem in cities, where most places have wifi, but a challenge in areas, such as rural PEI, where internet is spotty.  The website states there is an offline capability, but I have not tried it.

Do you have an app that helps you communicate more effectively?  Have you tried the live caption app?  Don’t be shy!  Tell us about it.

© Daria Valkenburg

“911 Connect” Emergency Response Exercise Tested 911 Protocols

June 4, 2017.  Imagine this.  You have an emergency and call 911. Simple enough, right?  But what if you can’t HEAR the 911 operator?  Many people do not hear well enough to have simple conversations on the telephone, let alone one in a stressful situation. This is why there are two protocols on Prince Edward Island for dialing 911 for the hard of hearing, ‘Dial 911’ and ‘Text with 911’.

Recently, members of the PEI Chapter of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association, in cooperation with the province of PEI’s 911 Provincial Coordinator, 911 Operators, and managers from Island EMS, conducted a live exercise, “911 Connect” to test the two protocols to see if they worked as planned.

EMS responders also tried out a pocket talker to help communicate with the hard of hearing.  A pocket talker is a portable device that amplifies sounds, when the hard of hearing person wears the headphones. It is useful for one-on-one conversation, and can be used with or without hearing aids.

Two volunteers from the PEI Chapter were the “patients”:  One who wears a hearing aid and has a cochlear implant, was the ‘Text with 911’ patient.  Another, who wears two hearing aids, was the ‘Dial 911 patient’.  Two Operations Managers from Island EMS were the responders.  Observers of the exercise were the Acting 911 Coordinator from the Province of P.E.I., an Operations Manager from Island EMS, and two executive members from the PEI Chapter.

The exercise began with ‘Text with 911’.  The texting was by a first time texter, and it took 6 minutes to text what a prolific texter could have done much quicker.  In comparison, the ‘Dial 911’ call took 1 minute and 21 seconds. Our volunteer counted to 5 aloud after dialling, then repeated her name, address, emergency, and that she was hard of hearing three times before hanging up.

The scenario for both exercises was the same: the caller had symptoms similar to a heart attack.  During the ‘Text with 911’ exercise, EMS responders were astonished at how well our volunteer could hear with her cochlear implant, which she wouldn’t have on if an emergency happened at night.  When it was removed, her only way of understanding the EMS responder was by speech reading.

Next, ‘Dial 911’ began.  Our volunteer had removed her hearing aids prior to the exercise, making it a challenge for the EMS responders.  The pocket talker proved its worth here!  Our volunteer also used speech reading techniques to follow the conversation between herself and the EMS responder speaking to her.

The PEI Chapter of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association was grateful for the opportunity to test the 911 protocols to be assured that they do work.

© Daria Valkenburg