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13 How Can You Make Your Home Communication-Friendly?

So Your Child has a Hearing Loss: Next Steps for Parents

There are lots of ways you can make your home communication-friendly for your family and your child's friends. In fact, technology is going to make a huge difference in your child's life, equalizing the playing field between those who have normal hearing and those who do not. One of the exciting aspects is that
much of this is "mainstream" technology, used by everyone, not just people with hearing loss.

You probably already have some of this equipment at home. Do you have a computer and access to the Internet? This will become your child's lifeline! Email has become ubiquitous and it is one of the simplest ways for people with and without hearing loss to communicate. Every year millions of people open Internet and email accounts, as the price of computers and Internet services decrease. In fact, people with hearing loss are usually the first to use new services, such as instant messaging or "chat rooms". Additionally, the Internet is a "no hassle" way to conduct research for school projects. There are also computer programs that are excellent for stimulating language and speech skills.

If you have a fax machine, you have another device that is excellent for non-verbal communication. One of the good features of faxes is that you have a "hard copy" of your communication. This way, both parties can be certain they have understood one another, avoiding mix-ups and misunderstandings which can occur in conversations where communication is difficult.

If you have a television set manufactured after 1993 with a screen that is 13 inches or larger, your child has instant visual access to TV. You may have noticed the number of programs that are captioned, designated with a "CC" in every television program guide. Television captioning is similar to the written text line you see running across the bottom of foreign movies. You may have also seen the captioning line used on televisions in noisy places like airports and restaurants.

You will need to use the closed captioning button on your T.V. to access the caption line. Check your T.V. instruction booklet if you are unsure how to
activate closed captioning. Older televisions do not have a closed captioned button, but you can buy a separate closed captioned decoder from specialty catalogs featuring assistive devices. However, it may be a better investment to purchase a new television, rather than a caption decoder.

Your child can use a telephone, too. Children with mild-moderate losses, or even severe-to-profound losses (if they are well-aided or have a cochlear implant, and have been taught to use residual hearing), may be able to use the regular telephone. As a first step, ensure that your phone has a volume control option so that your child may amplify the caller's voice as necessary. Also, your child needs a hearing aid with a telephone ("t") switch, and a hearing-aid compatible telephone. Newer phones are all manufactured to be compatible with t-switches. If you have an older phone, your child will have to try it out with the t-switch turned on. Some of the digital wireless phones will emit a loud, squealing sound if used with a "t" switch. If you are going to purchase a digital wireless phone that your child will use, you need to have him/her try it out before committing to the purchase.

A TTY machine can be attached to your regular phone to turn the auditory signal into a visual print-out. In order to use a TTY, your child needs to know
how to type and to read. The phone set is not held up to one's ear, but placed on the TTY machine. The person types in the message, and the words are transmitted to the person on the other end who also has a TTY machine. The message is read, one line at a time, on a small screen. There are a variety of TTY machines - some are very small and portable, others are desk units with the capability of printing a "hard copy" of the conversation. TTY machines can be ordered through specialty catalogs.

So, what do you do if the person being called doesn't own a TTY? Thanks to another federal law, the Americans With Disabilities Act, a nation-wide relay system has been set up. The person with the TTY first calls a relay operator. The relay operator gets the second party on the line. Now the person with the TTY starts typing in the conversation. The relay operator reads the message over
his/her TTY and relays that message verbally to the second party. The second party answers verbally, the operator types in that message and it is relayed to the person with the TTY. The parties can talk as long as they wish. The rates for long-distance are reduced for relay calls, because they take longer than regular calls. The relay number for your state is located in the front pages of your telephone book.

There are other pieces of equipment that make communication helpful-for example, vibrating pagers with digital readouts, watches with vibrating alarms, visual alarm clocks-and dozens of gadgets and accessories helpful for enhancing communication. Keep your eyes and ears open for new technology and new ways of using existing technology. Consult AG Bell and other organizations serving the deaf and hard of hearing, and send for some of the specialty catalogs on
assistive devices. Attend the AG Bell convention to learn more about advances in technology through our technology forums and research symposia.

© 2011 by Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

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October 22, 2021

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