By Andi Murphy
April 4, 2013
When a person who is hard of hearing can’t use a regular phone anymore, they’re cut off from the world: from friends, family and simple business matters.
It can be hindering and depressing and lead to them being afraid of using the phone or even stopping that communication all together, said Shannon Smith, New Mexico Commission for Deaf and Hard of Hearing director of telecommunications.
“The Ensemble gives the people the freedom to use the phone again,” Smith said. “We’re always interested in pushing the latest technology and the Ensemble really meets people’s needs.”
This advanced phone system is available for New Mexicans, through the New Mexico Commission for Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and so far, only 10 people have applied for it, she said.
That’s 10 out of an estimated 250,000 people in New Mexico who have hearing loss or are deaf, she added.
Smith is hard of hearing and knows first-hand what it’s like to not understand what people are saying and to constantly ask “what did you say?”
With the Ensemble phone system, which she has, communication is pretty on point and exact. She can read the words being spoken to her on a screen and can amplify the volume up to 50 decibels, she said.
“It’s really cool,” said Jon Gray, business manager for special needs and state programs at Clarity, a Tennessee-based business that provides communication devices for those with hearing loss, speech disabilities and vision disabilities. Clarity partnered with ClearCaptions to create the Ensemble. “It’s really kind of on that cutting edge.”
It’s not just a screen that flashes words, it’s tablet technology that allows users to customize fonts, colors and adjust everything with just a touch to the screen. It even has an award-winning customer service button that connects instantly to a representative for technical help, Gray said.
“The combination of the amplification and the captioning really provides the most clarification for a person with hearing loss,” Gray said.
New Mexico was one of the first states to pick up the Ensemble, which has only been on the market since January, he said. To see if you qualify to receive the Ensemble through the New Mexico Commission for Deaf and Hard of Hearing, you’ll need to submit:
* an application from http://cdhh.state.nm.us/TEDP.aspx
* copy of your phone bill
* a copy of an audiogram or hearing test
* and a copy of your driver’s license or state identification card
Those with Ensemble only have to pay for their Internet service, Smith said.
For more information call, 800-489-8536.
Andi Murphy can be reached at 575-541-5453; follow Andi on Twitter @andimurphy.
Facts about hearing loss
* Men are more likely to experience hearing loss.
* About 17 percent (36 million) Americans report some degree of hearing loss.
* Around 2 to 3 of every 1,000 children are born deaf or hard of hearing and nine out of 10 children born deaf are born to parents who can hear.
* Around 15 percent of Americans between 20 and 69 years old have high-frequency hearing loss due to loud sounds.
* About 4,000 new cases of sudden deafness occur each year in the U.S.
Source — National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, nidcd.nih.gov