Sam Bauman: Hard-of-hearing seniors have help

For Carson City seniors, all 15,000 of those 65 and older living here, medical problems are common, taking up time and funds. And some of those problems, such as the loss of hearing, seem insurmountable. More than 15 percent of those 65 and older suffer hearing loss; for those over 80 it's more like 50 percent can't hear very well.

I know. I'm one of the 80-plus who have lost significant degrees of hearing. Thanks to the Reno VA's acoustical department hearing aids I get along quite well most of the time. But of course there are frantic moments such as when a battery dies in the middle of a movie. And, more importantly for someone like me who uses the telephone for business as well as pleasure, hearing loss on the phone can be frustrating. Conversations become "What did you say?" or "Huh?"

Understanding conversations on the phone are more difficult because I can't see and "read" lips of those I'm speaking with.

I heard that there were special phones that had a small computer screen that translate spoken words into written words during a conversation. I tried all the computer shops but no one knew where one could find one. I finally checked with the Reno VA facility and the acoustic tech there gave me that address of an agency that might be able to help.

The agency is the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Advocacy Resource Center ( at 1150 Corporate Blvd. in Reno. Online I found the necessary paperwork and completed it, except for a doctor's report on my hearing loss. I found Dr. Mark Woeks in town who squeezed me in for the test. His office also faxed all my paper work on to DHHARC, which is close to the American Red Cross offices.

Despite not having an appointment, the staff of the nonprofit agency welcomed me; they had already read the paperwork and I was taken to an office where I was shown the five kind of devices they had to offer. The device they suggested for me was the CapTel, which displayed the actual phone conversation in computer type on a 3-inch-by-5-inch screen as it was happening.

That was exactly what I needed. It also kept a record of all conversations, was an answering machine and could operate off an Ethernet connection or WiFi, which I have for my computers. It was a handsome machine as well.

I offered to pay for it as the staff handed it to me but they said no, "We're nonprofit." Needless to say, a check is in the mail to them.

Setting the phone up took some rearranging of desk and computers as well as several hours of trying to get it on WiFi, but while the phone could find my modem it couldn't hook up. A phone call to the agency resulted in my having to switch from WiFi to Ethernet to get updates into the phone. And after that, everything worked and my friends who have been avoiding call me because I never quite got what they said can now call and ask when we're going skiing.

More on X-C skiing

My doctor at the VA in Reno is a cross-country skier of many years and, during my visits, we always chat about skiing --after checking my blood pressure. I told of writing about cross-country for seniors and he offered this comment: "Tell them to get a professional lesson before starting out; don't let friends get you off on the wrong ski."

And he's right. As a former ski instructor at Heavenly and Bear Mountain in Southern California, I know how important it is to get the right instruction on any kind of skis.

• Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.


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