Apps and Services to Aid Phone Use

 phone ringing

Using my smartphone is great for texting, email and the internet. As hard of hearing, these features keep me in the communication loop but using it for actual phone calls is another matter altogether. There are times when using the phone is unavoidable and I have to do it. In the last few weeks, I needed help getting messages off my voicemail which sent me on a flurry of research.

YouMail: My boyfriend found this service so we could forward any voicemail to him and he could text me back with the necessary information. It’s free (with ads), $2.99 a month without ads and there is a business plan which includes voice to text for $24.00 a month. They also have Read It plans but it gets a little goofy here, with $4.99 a month for 20 voicemails at 20 seconds of transcription. Their next level is $9.99 with 40 voicemails and 40 seconds each and on up to their unlimited plan which includes unlimited messages and 60 seconds of transcription each. They have a free app available for iPhone and I now have it so I can forward messages which I wasn’t able to do through iPhone alone. It also allows me to record personal greetings to people in my contact list and have a default message for everyone else.

My boyfriend is willing to help me out but as my business picks up, I don’t want to burn him out so next I asked my friends at the SayWhatClub (SWC, a daily source of support and friendship via email) how they coped with retrieving voicemails. It turns out a lot of us use our significant other or try very hard to get people to use email or text instead. Those who still deal with the phone (usually for business purposes) told me about services and programs they heard of or used. I haven’t tried them myself yet but here are options you can look at.

PhoneTag: Their website says, “PhoneTag uses advanced technology to convert voicemail to text and deliver it via e-mail and/or text messages.” Their plans range from 35 cents a message, to 40 voicemails a month for $10 and unlimited for $30 a month. Jaynie Kind who writes for her local HLAA chapter in California wrote in their 2009 newsletter, “My husband just set it up and it’s fantastic! People can leavevoicemail messages on your home or cell phone and thosemessages can be transcribed and sent to your email or cellphone as TEXT messages! No more struggling to understandvoicemail.” On the downside, another friend on the SWC email list said he signed up for the service and after 5 days hasn’t been able to use it and tech support is via the phone only.

Google Voice: They have a video to watch for information but it’s well captioned. This service appears to be free at first glance. It’s over-view says the transcription isn’t always perfect but believes we will get the basic message anyway and they are working to improve that portion of their service. It has many options including tying three phone together if needed. Someone who used this service said it wasn’t perfect but it’s not bad. (I’m thinking it can’t be any worse than relay operators and it can’t be as awful as YouTube captions.) I’m not sure how much of their Voice services are free but it might be worth checking into. I like their honesty so I will look into this soon.

After doing a web search, I found other businesses offering similar services:

Before my voicemail issues last week, I hadn’t heard of any of this and didn’t know these kinds of options existed so I thought I’d share my discoveries. Feel free to add your thoughts and experiences below in the comment section.

Meeting 7-13-13

Last night Mike and Donna hosted a social/meeting at their house offering HLAA members dinner.  We were supposed to eat outside in the nice summer weather but an oncoming thunderstorm chased us inside.

Mike and Donna



A few of us brought kids who were thoroughly entertained in the play nook under the stairs.  We visited with one another and shared news over a nice meal.

 company for dinner

nice gathering

dinner guests

Afterwards we had a meeting, CART was provided. Thanks Julia!!!

Julia setting up CART

During the meeting portion we elected a new president to the chapter, Chelle George.

The outreach committee outlined their efforts; creating this website/blog and a FaceBook page to which many will get a invite to over the next few weeks or so.  They also want to get together some published material to handout in the future.  The program committee reported on our next meeting.

We discussed a request by Utah-CAN coming up for help with printing materials for outreach. A budget will be coming soon for us to vote on.

After business was concluded, we hooked up this website to the large TV to share with everyone for the first time.

Before we left, we had a group picture taken. Don’t you just love the smiling faces?

Back row: Mike, Kristen, Chelle, Kathy and her husband Fred, Linda.  Front row:  Donna, Kristel, Helen, Julia.

Back row: Mike, Kristen, Chelle, Kathy and her husband Fred, Linda. Front row: Donna, Kristel, Helen, Julia.

Our next meeting is September 14, 2013 from 9 a.m. to 11:00 at the Sanderson Center.  Our topic: Don’t Let Yourself be a Victim (Crime Prevention; Family Abuse Prevention; Invisibility Prevention /advocating for self). Please mark you calendars and we hope to see you there.

Scott Bally’s Workshop at the SayWhatClub Convention: Ten Communication Strategies That Really Work


Last May, I attended the SayWhatClub’s convention in Williamsburg, VA.  Dr. Scott Bally and Bonnie O’Leary gave a two hour presentation giving  us “10 Communication Strategies That Really Work.” I think we all learned at least one thing here (if not 10) about communicating with a hearing loss.  I also saw him at workshop a year ago at the HLAA convention in Rhode Island.  If you ever get a chance to see him present, do it.  Not only does he give good information but he’s also a lot of fun.  Here’s a summary…


 Scott Bally


#1  Shore Up Your Repair Strategies


Scott says, “Be fair and don’t overburden the speaker. Eliminate “huh” and “what.” Learn to be assertive but not aggressive. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Have a variety of repair strategies to fit different circumstances. (Ask for the topic, a repeat or a rephrase as an example.) Be sure to thank the other person for their help and sensitivity, a show appreciation goes a long way.




#2  Use Maintenance Strategies


“confirm…CONFIRM… CONFIRM” He says. Repeat back what you heard to be sure you understood correctly. When trying to follow a conversation or instructions, take it in small increments and set the pace you need. Stop speakers sooner than later if you didn’t understand because believe it or not, you’re wasting less time.




#3  Anticipate


Knowing a topic can increase your understanding of a conversation by 50%. Here, he provided us with a lip reading exercise. He silently mouthed 5 words without giving us a topic. I got all of them wrong. Then he told us the next five words would be ‘fruit.’ I got all but one right. The funny part of this, the first set of words were the same fruit. Peach looks like another word altogether if a little body language is thrown in. He sure threw us off there the first round.




#4  Guide Communication


Guide conversations by initiating topics but don’t dominate conversations, he warns. We can also lead communication by asking better questions. Ask yes and no types of questions and closed set or limited set questions. Get precise enough to get simple answers. “Effective questions will limit what you need to lip read…and makes it easier!” Finally, instead of “What” or “Huh,” repeat back what you heard and ask for the missing piece, saving energy on both parties. Or better yet, ask for a rephrase.




#5  Create Better Communication Partners


“People can change, it takes persistence, sensitivity and constant reminders.” Explain your hearing loss, tell the other person what you need and suggest verbal or non-verbal reminders. It’s important to be knowledgeable about your hearing loss because not all are alike and we all have different needs. He also emphasizes our partners have the same sad feelings we do so “Develop solutions together.”




#6  Create Better Communication Environments


Improve your environment paying attention to lighting and acoustics. Create a communication environment. He showed us pictures of beautiful rooms which promoted sound bouncing all over the place making it more difficult on our ears. How do we improve our rooms? Have curtains instead of blinds, a throw rug over wood floors, big, fluffy pillows and furniture. Plants and books also help soak up sound. How about looping the living room, aren’t we worth it?




#7  Be More (or less) Assertive


Where are we on the assertive scale of one to ten? Some of us may be a bit too shy and other might be too demanding. Scott suggests being clear with your request and provide a reason (being upfront about your hearing loss). Use courtesy instead of anger. An example he provided, “If you trim your mustache, I’ll do dishes for a month” vs “It’s me or the mustache!” How would you like to be asked?




#8  Pace Yourself


Trying to hear for hours at a time is exhausting. It’s okay to take time outs, he says. Walk around the block, take a mental nap, slip into a quiet room. Let your ears and brain rest and he even gave us permission to fake it once in a while, especially if it’s Aunt Bessie telling the same story for the 100th time. He advises us to be well rested before big hearing events too.




#9  Give Yourself A Break.


“Change what you can, don’t frustrate yourself trying to change the unchangeable.” Look for things you can change in your environment. Can you change a mumbler? (See # 5) Or someone with a mustache? You can ask them to trim it but they may refuse. Don’t bang your head on a brick wall. Remind a fast talker to slow down with a prearranged hand signal telling them you really do want to know what they say and want to hear every word.




#10  Change Your Thinking


Hearing loss is only part of the problem. Things like loud music in restaurants, everyone talking at one and acoustics compound the problem. Some people have long mustaches, accents, are soft talkers or fast talkers. Communication is a two way street. Make our needs known, keep a variety of strategies at our disposal and we can get along in society. We are smart people because we are constantly filling in the missing pieces. “It’s more than lip reading! It’s visual plus auditory plus context plus linguistic knowledge. 2 + 2 = 5,” he tells us.




For more information on Scott Bally check out his book:


Speech Reading: A Way to Improve Understanding, a book he co-wrote with Harriet Kaplan and Carol Garretson


This post written by Chelle George




Hearing Loss Kills…

Who says hearing loss isn’t deadly? Those with hearing loss might be alive but many of us aren’t quite living either. It takes the average person seven years to get hearing aids or seek help. In that seven years we die a little each year.


Hearing loss kills self-esteem:

  • Did I hear that right? Should I answer only to be wrong again? Look stupid again?
  • Asked for a repeat one too many times and got “Never mind” or “I SAID…”
  • Not being able to perform simple, everyday tasks like answer the phone or understand simple English.

What’s easier?

  • Hole up in my own world and read books where I don’t risk being a pest or being wrong, again.


Hearing loss kills social interaction:

  • Large gatherings be it a dinner or a party are a buzz, low hum and sprinkled with laughter. That’s all I know. Intense concentration trying to keep up with what’s said as conversation bounces around leads to burn out. I then phase out to give my brain a break only to be told later, “You weren’t paying attention.”
  • People call out to me, I didn’t hear and we continue walking. I’m labeled stuck up or unfriendly.
  • Social outings often include movie theaters, restaurants and concerts. All three venues play hell on hearing aid instruments making speech all the more difficult to understand.

What’s easier?

  • Staying home to read my book or watch DVDs with captions. Thank goodness TV captioning became mandatory in the 1990’s.


Hearing loss kills careers:

  • Many work places have bad acoustics creating another sort of deafness that doesn’t involve silence at all. It’s noise with no definition.
  • Meetings without assistive listening devices (ALDs) are impossible to keep up with. Employers fight against accommodation. The same for phone accommodations.
  • I’m afraid to ask for help, afraid it will show weakness especially in today’s world of downsizing.

What’s easier?

  • Bluffing, trying to remain as small as possible in an effort to hide or quitting.


Hearing loss kills relationships:

  • What good are you if you can’t hear someone breaking in at night?”
  • A partner using hearing loss to his/her advantage. “I asked you about a golf membership and since you didn’t answer, I assumed it was okay to get one.” Did he ask me from the other side of the house???
  • You would be nothing without me. You need me to hear.” Dependency bonds.

What’s easier?

  • Faking it, being alone or submitting to a unsatisfying relationship because of low self-esteem.


That’s why hard of hearing people isolate themselves. What have I done to combat it?

Bought hearing aids and joined a hearing loss group for support and came away with knowledge and courage too.

Educated myself about sensorineural hearing loss so I could explain how I hear to others and exactly what I need to understand better.

I started advocating for myself.

Come to our meetings to borrow a little courage, learn about hearing loss and coping strategies.  Learn to advocate for yourself and within our community. Meeting dates and times are to the right.


Be fearless. Have the courage to take risks. Go where there are no guarantees. Get out of your comfort zone even if it means being uncomfortable. The road less traveled is sometimes fraught with barricades bumps and uncharted terrain. But it is on that road where your character is truly tested. And have the courage to accept that you’re not perfect nothing is and no one is — and that’s OK.” Katie Couric (born 1957); American journalist.