Not being able to hear on the telephone has been gradually eating away at my confidence for a couple of years now, ever since my hearing declined from missing the odd word on the phone to missing most of them. My worst experience was realising that a close family friend was telling me that someone had died but not being able to understand who. It was his wife. So I don’t answer the phone and I don’t make phone calls. My lovely husband fields things for me but it’s still pretty humiliating. And no, that’s not too strong a word. Not being able to make a phone call is not the “me” I’m used to being.
But there has been a miracle, in the form of the Next Generation Text Service (NGTS). “Wozzat?” you say, and indeed none of my deaf or hard of hearing friends had heard of it. Essentially it is a specialist switchboard service, where the operators listen in to your conversation, and type what the person at the other end is saying so that you can read it on your computer, tablet or smart phone. It is provided by BT and it is free.
I found the whole concept a bit mystifying to begin with. How would my husband get calls, or make calls, if our telephone was linked to this service? Would we need two telephones? The Hearing Link Helpdesk came to my rescue, with a clear, detailed and incredibly rapid answer to my baffled questions. (Even better, the answer came from someone with a similar level of hearing loss so I immediately felt confident she knew exactly what I meant). And of course you don’t need two phones. There is a prefix (18001 for outgoing calls, 18002 for incoming) which you just link to your normal number.
So I used the NGTS app to link our phone to the service (which took a couple of tries but wasn’t too difficult) and had a go. Friends, it works. You open the app on your iPad (or other tablet, or smart phone if you have one, or computer), dial the prefix, dial the number you want to call and words start appearing in front of you. “Ring ring”, it says. “Ring ring”. Then “the call has been answered” then “Hello, Bill Bloggs here GA” and, knowing that Bill is there you GA (go ahead) and say…..well, say whatever you want to say. Just typing it is making me smile. It really works.
It is clunky compared to a normal conversation, because of the delay whilst the operator types what the other person is saying. So with friends I am still mainly using e mail to communicate. But it can be very useful when I’ve needed an answer to something more quickly than I could guarantee an e mail response.
The first time I used NGTS was when I needed to pick up some new glasses from the optician. They had said they would be ready on a particular Sunday but, on the day, I was starting to think maybe I should wait a few days in case they hadn’t arrived. Then I remembered “I can ring them”. So I did, the new glasses were ready and I drove into town with a smile on my face. It sounds ridiculous, but you become so used to not communicating that it feels really liberating when you can. Previously I would either have risked going into town knowing that it might be a wasted journey, or waited a few days to be sure.
On other occasions I’ve used the service to make appointments. I had abandoned the telephone on these occasions because I would sometimes mis-hear what the appointment was and turn up at the wrong time. Or else spend embarrassing ages on the phone saying “so the appointment is for 10am on Monday….have I heard you correctly?” and then not be sure what they had said in reply. Now I’m confident again and have won back some independence. I’ve even managed to sort out a tricky problem with my pet insurer’s call centre. Eureka.
So I cannot tell you how delighted I am with NGTS. I tell all my friends with hearing problems about it (and indeed all my friends who haven’t got hearing problems………).
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