Effective Technology and Support with Hearing Loss

Laura Thompson

Because society tends to confuse physical ability with function-ability, having a disability can potentially undermine one's self-confidence in every aspect of life. Competencies are often overlooked in schools, work places, and in communities. Therefore, people with disabilities will best understand that the physical self is only one part of the entire self. In fact, a disability motivates many to test out all they can be, and make their dreams realities.

Laura Thompson, was born deaf, but her parents did not realize it until she was two.  In fact, when her parents discovered it, it was for two children, as Laura is a twin!  Laura (and her twin) were born with Usher syndrome, a genetic condition that affects an individual's hearing and over time, one's sight.  Laura grew up in a mixed household, meaning that her father wanted her to be oral and her mother preferred sign language. Laura can hear music and people talk, but cannot understand the words.  She learned to lip read to enable communication with those who don't sign, such as her father.

Laura attended public schools.  She spent her elementary years in a self-contained classroom, along with other children who were deaf or hard-of-hearing.  In junior high, Laura was mainstreamed with the support of an interpreter.  She had an interpreter throughout college, as well as a note-taker.  Laura participated in speech therapy until high school when she decided to stop therapy because she wanted to be like her peers without being pulled out of class for therapy.  Laura went on to achieve a master's degree in Social Work.   

Laura uses her degree in her current employment as a Communications Access Advocate for AIM-CIL (Achieving Independence and Mobility – Center for Independent Living). There she works with individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing and teaches them how to be self-advocates for accommodations and services they need.  She helps people become independent, provides referrals for additional resources, furnishes individuals with peer counseling and support groups and advocates for individuals who are deaf and hard-of-hearing to help solve issues.  

Hearing loss can be challenging in social or work environments because of communication nuances between people. Something like attending a staff meeting or taking a college course can be challenging. Laura has found various ways to help her succeed in those situations.  She uses the Video Relay Services (VRS) for phone calls. She has been using a video phone at home and at work for quite some time.  Through this service, Laura signs to the relay interpreter who then speaks to the person on the other end of the line. The interpreter then signs the spoken message back to Laura.  Laura grew up using a TTY, but that technology was replaced with a video phone.

In the work setting, Laura uses a sign language interpreter as well as CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) services when an interpreter is not available.  This provides an instant translation of spoken text into digital text with software.  In a meeting situation, the CART provider types into a stenotype machine using machine shorthand. The software translates it into realtime captioning which can be displayed directly onto an individual's computer monitor.   CART can be used in many environments; schools, churches, courtrooms, auditoriums, and work settings.

At home, Laura uses some assistive technology devices such as a vibrating alarm under her mattress with a light.  She mainly has relied upon her husband or her family though for things like hearing the doorbell or a knock on the door. However, since March, 2014, things changed for Laura.  That's when she received a black lab support dog, Mazda.  Now she feels safer when alone, relies less on her husband and feels more indepdendent.  Mazda nudges Laura whenever a sound should be addressed, like the doorbell or the oven alarm. If someone calls her name, Mazda is right there, letting Laura know.



Communication Access Realtime Translation or real-time captioning

Sorenson Communications – products and services for deaf and hard-of hearing individuals; provides free videophones and software to deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals who require Video Relay Service (VRS) to place and receive calls.  Individuals must use ASL to communicate.

Purple VRS – provides on-site interpreting services, video relay services, text relay services and video remote interpreting.

42 Executive Blvd, Farmingdale NY 11735
800-881-4327 voice

800-281-3555 TTY
Distributors of amplified telephones, listening systems, alert devices, TTYs, and other telecommunication devices; shop on-line. Also carries items for vision, medical, mobility and household. 

HITEC Group, Ltd.
1743 Quincy Avenue, Unit #155, Naperville, IL 60540
(800) 288-8303 voice (toll-free)
(800) 536-8890 TTY

(888) 758.6056 Spanish
HITEC distributes a diverse selection of communication products and other assistive technology devices for people with auditory impairments.

Phone Merchants
929 West Pike Street, Clarksburg, WV 26301

877.291.1076 voice
304.624.0103 Fax
Phone Merchants is a retail electronics store located in Clarksburg, West Virginia.  Products are also sold online.  They include phones for hearing impaired, products for visually impaired, home security products, products for speech impaired and more.


Note: Infinitec does not endorse or recommend the above-mentioned products and has no liability for the results of their use. Infinitec has received no consideration of any type for featuring this product on this Web site. The information offered herein is a summary; it is not comprehensive and should be carefully evaluated by consumers with the assistance of qualified professionals. The intention of Infinitec is to offer consumers a brief overview of various assistive technology devices and their applications.

Laura with support dog, Mazda