Saturday, May 19, 2012

Relay Explained

Dearest Emily and Melissa-- this post is for you :)

Relay has been around for years and years and years.  While growing up, my mom used a TTY.  She would put her handset on this little typewriter machine (yep her landline phone) and the person she was talking to would speak.  Their voice would be sent to an operator.  The operator would listen and type what was being said.  The words would display on a little screen for my mom to read.  For my mom to reply she would type back.  The operator would voice it to the hearing person on the other end.  Captioned phone calls!

Fast forward a few years.  My mom began using the Captel phone.  People complained about the TTY (ahem.... I may or may not have been one of them).  It was forever slow.  And you couldn't hear my mom's voice.  You would just hear this operator say what my mom was typing.  On the captel phone, the operator listened in still.  But my mom would speak into the handset to the hearing person.  Their reply was typed in by the captioner.  Her calls were still captioned but she was able to use her voice.  This system was better.

Now fast forward even more years when hardly anyone has a landline.  Captels are still in existence.  CaptionCall phones are supposed to be the newest and bestest at this function.  However, with the advance of the internet, came the advance of internet relay.  You can use internet relay anywhere, for free, with no needed equipment except a phone and the internet.  And yes, it's a real person who listens in on your calls.  However, you have no interaction with this person other than seeing their operator # typed at the beginning of the call.  You are listening to the call and reading what the captioner types out on your computer screen.  Since the operator has to listen, understand and type out, this obviously takes time and it makes sense there is a delay.  It's best to use this system when you can mostly hear on the phone but just need a back up for the few things you miss.  So this would be a great system for all those baby boomers who are starting to lose their hearing.

However, for me, I would probably do better with a different system.  But there is not yet one that has presented itself.

If you could hear, wouldn't it be a fun job to listen in on everyone's phone calls??  Especially therapy related phone calls?

Voice to text programs still have a ton of kinks to work out.  If you want to test it, go on youtube and select the "cc" button.  Select auto transcribe, click ok to acknowledge you understand it's not accurate and then read the captions to a video as you listen to it.  It's cRaZy!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

My Repentance

After my rant last week, I've decided to forgive relay for being so ineffective.  It has, after all, saved my bacon a number of times.  So instead of complaining about what it can't do, I'm going to share some of the funny relay blunders.

For example, today, I got a referral at work for someone struggling with an addiction.  The captioner wrote that so and so is "having an issue with ducks feet."  It should have been so and so is "having an issue with pornography."

Later, someone on the phone was talking about a location and instead of captioning the location as "Mt Mahogony" the captioner wrote "girls pretty."

So I guess my areas of expertise are expanding to working with ducks feet in girls pretty :)

Sunday, May 13, 2012


Well guess what......we just got a letter in the mail from my insurance.  They approved my second CI surgery.  I have no idea on earth how that happened.  No idea.  I thought it would be months away.  I'm still having a hard time wrapping my head around it.  My poor husband is more shocked than I am.  He just keeps saying "I am not ready to do this again."  Haha.  Poor Evan's been through a lot with me.  So they are giving us until the end of the year to get it done.  We have some time to process and prepare for it.  No idea when we'll do it.  But we need to call our insurance and really make sure that's what they meant and what the co-pay is.  We are still paying on the last one and will be for a very, very long time.  It was more expensive than we anticipated.  All these fears have been popping up since I got the letter.  Isn't it funny how humans work?  We anticipate, we get excited, we want something and then boom, we get it and it freaks us out!  I don't feel completely ready to say goodbye to human voices yet.  But at the same time, what I get from an implant is so much more than what I get from a hearing aid.  So really, I don't want to waste a second of valuable training time to my left auditory nerve.  A new journey will soon be beginning!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Internet relay

I hate it.  How is it that technology exists that allows deaf people to hear but not to effectively caption their phone conversations?  I hate relay.  Here's an example of a relay call (now, remember, it's one sided, you can't read my part of the conversation only the other persons):

(cough) (speaker unclear) birth party  I'm aligned with you.  Do the math.  Place it just wondering where we are at.

Anyone want to interpret that for me?

What on earth do we have relay for if that's the quality of relay??  Grrrrr

Ok, it's not always that bad.  But 9 out of 10 phone calls I have to make, I walk away saying "I hate relay."  I'm so desperate to do better on the phone without relay.  I so envy a hearing person who just picks up their phone, puts it next to their ear and says "hello?"

This is what I do if it's a call I have to make.  I get on the internet.  Sign in to relay.  Hook up my Clear Sounds neckloop to my phone.  Turn it on.  Turn my CI telecoil on.  Turn my hearing aid telecoil on. Enter in the number I want to call on relay.  Wait for relay to call my phone.  Answer it.  Wait for relay to call and connect with the person I am calling.  Start talking slowly, giving the operator the chance to start typing, explain I am using relay.  Slowing the person down if they are talking too fast.  Asking them to repeat something or asking them a random question or stalling on something I am explaining to give the operator a chance to catch up.  Try and understand the words I am hearing while relying on relay to get what I miss, just to realize that relay is still three sentences behind what the person is saying.  The person asks me a question.  I know this not because I hear the question but because our voices change when we ask a question.  I've memorized the change.  And then of course there is a pause.  I usually respond with "hang on, just waiting for relay to catch up."  And then I answer their question.  About half of the time relay put the question in wrong.  So I wait again for the question to be clarified.  I try to answer again, hoping that I gave a satisfactory answer and they will continue to talk.  So that I can not have the pressure of answering a question.  And then I restate.  "Ok, so what I'm understand you say is ......" or "just want to make sure I caught that, you are asking me to do......"  And then the whole process starts over again!  And I get confirmation I got it right, or I am corrected or worse.  The worse is when someone repeats themselves again and I have to wait for relay and then I realize they said again the same thing I thought I understood.  Then I have to figure out if they were just simply repeating.  Or if relay got it wrong both time.  Whew.  I'm getting anxious just typing this.  By the time I am done with the phone call, my anxiety levels have skyrocketed and it takes me a few minutes to get my breathing back in check. Then, if it's work related, I then will send a follow up email or text to make sure I got the conversation right.  Is it any surprise that I have paired anxiety and the telephone in my brain?

If Evan happens to be near me when I am on the phone, he can't stand it.  He'll leave the room or else try to take over the phone conversation.  Because what he can accomplish in a 2 minute phone conversation takes me at least 15 minutes.

Now all that being said, the benefit with relay is the whole conversation is saved.  I can then go back and read it in it's entirety and almost always catch on to what I missed because it's in the context of the whole conversation not individual sentences.  And I have become super woman skilled at comprehending speech when I understand context.  And there are some voices that are getting easier for me to follow so that's definitely a bonus.

I have a caption call phone that is supposed to be more effective than internet relay.  But the phone won't work unless you have a land line and high speed internet.  We have a land line for Evan's business.  It just so happens that the company our landline is through does not support the data transfer that goes into the caption call phone.  There are two other companies we could go with.  One has chosen not to cover our street.  At all.  The other costs almost $100 a month.  For a landline????  Please you can get a cell phone plan for cheaper than that.

You know what my manager does if she needs to talk with me?  She sends me a text and says "hey Kristel, can you jump on msn or gchat?"  Way more effective!!!  My sister in law, Jenna, said that texting was invented just for me.  Though I am pretty certain other people benefit from texting, I can't help but shout praises that texting was invented during my lifetime.

Alright, I'm done with my rant.  I think I'm just tired and have had a super long week with a ridiculous amount of phone calls.  Including one that ended just a bit ago about 11:30 pm.  So now I'm going to bed and tomorrow when I wake up I'll be grateful for what I do get out of relay.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Newest Map

I've lost count of what map I'm on.  That's probably a good sign.  I'm settling into a bionic life very nicely.  Yesterday I met up with both my auditory therapist and my audiologist.  They danced an intricate dance and it was so fun to observe.  Susan (the therapist) would test me on some words, particularly focusing on the vowels that challenge me.  Then Anne (the audi) would make a tweak on my map with her computer software.  My CI would reset and Susan would test me some more.  They went back and forth for a long time.  Some of the changes made sound worse and less human so they just kept working until their voices sounded clear and until I started passing more tests.  Anne was surprised at how much the final map was different from the last one.  Apparently the pregnancy hormone wreaked havoc on my implant too.  It's so interesting that hormones could affect a foreign device in my head.  But that's just another testament that hormones wreak HAVOC.  An interesting side note, but I recently found out that most research is done on male mice.  Why is that?  Because the hormonal cycle of female mice throws the research off.  Hah!  Anyways..... being pregnant and then not did away with some of the fine tuning on my last map.  So loving that no matter what my hormones do I can ALWAYS go get a new map!

I've gotten behind on rehab these last few weeks.  But I'm getting back on track.  Still listening to the book "Think and Grow Rich" on the ipod.  I have never read it before but the more I listen to it, the more I comprehend. 

Random side note, but I feel like there's been an expectation creeping up on me that I should understand all speech.  I don't know if it's me putting this on myself or if it's from others.  If it's me, I need to reframe.  If it's others, I need to educate.  I'm doing awesome but my version of awesome and a hearing person's version of awesome is completely different.  So those who know me well, just know I'm still going to ask  you to repeat yourself.  A lot.  Hang in there with me :)  I promise, I'm working on it!

Friday, May 4, 2012


Alright, I just have to vent for a minute.  There is a sound I hate.  I am sorry to say it too.  I really try to be grateful for all sounds.  But I'm just struggling with a particular sound.  When I hear it, I want to yank the CI off my head and throw it in front of traffic.  Yes, the sound is that annoying.  Ready for the reveal?  Shopping carts.  Yep, it's true.  I can handle how one shopping cart sounds if it's being pushed at a normal pace.  But if it's being pushed fast, it's hard on my ears and head.  However, if I am near a store employee who is pushing several shopping carts at once..........auggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhh!  I would rather hear someone scrunching (is that a word?) up a plastic walmart bag than hearing the rattling and screeching of shopping carts (and that's saying a lot because plastic bags are really hard on me too).  When I hear it I feel like I am in the trenches of a war with the sounds of machine guns and bombs going off near my head.  I'm sure I'll adjust one day.

On a more positive note, I have a combined mapping/auditory therapy session tomorrow.  Unheard of in the CI world, my therapist and my audiologist are combining forces to give me the best Map ever!  I love my CI team.  But each Map is a new adjustment so we'll see.....