Every Word You Say
I experienced triumph over pain last week that at-a-glance may seem unremarkable. It concerns a free iPhone App and real-time captioning service called ClearCaptions. It’s pretty nifty. ClearCaptions translates voice to text and allows me to see a callers words on my iPhone display. It works great—you say it, I see it. I talk back as normal and we enjoy a complete conversation. Simple.
And now I’m over the moon with ecstatic euphoria. Why? Because I can once again experience every word you say! See, I am deaf. In Spring 2010, the wealth of information that routinely came my way was suddenly cut to the quick. Complete, uninterrupted human communication flow was replaced by email bullet points and hasty notations via type-pad or post-it note.
.[bquote]I can once again experience every word you say! So I rejoice![/bquote]
Text messages replaced human voices as touchstone for all conversations. People use my iPad or laptop to kindly type Tweet-sized abstracts of their abundant vocal eloquence now denied. Some tried Dragon Dictation voice-to-text by reciting into a device and showing me the readable replay. I am grateful for these technologies. They helped me muddle through and rescued me from total isolation. And now I have ClearCaptions to add to the gadgetry fold. So I rejoice!
The Worst of Deaf
Perhaps a little background will help explain my gratitude. What makes a grown man exalt jubilation about an iPhone App? The answer is found in the hard truths inherent in my challenge. These, in early-deaf experience, are the most difficult aspects of my silent trudge:
- Starving for information via human conversation
- Exhaustion trying to interpret visual cues (e.g. reading lips)
- Less interaction with everyone, including knowing people avoid conversation with me
- Gradually losing treasured memories of many sounds and voices
- Feelings of isolation and being ignored, especially when amongst a group of hearing people
- Constant uncertainty about conversations just had. This includes knowing that I won’t know when I miss something.
[bquote_right]Facing down the cold hard facts strengthens the joy of triumph.[/bquote_right]
Reads like a big fat bummer, don’t it?! Why do I list these torments so plainly? Because facing down the cold hard facts strengthens the joy of triumph. The miracle of healing can go undetected when the wound is tiny and pain is vague. But when anguish is stark and hurt is intense– our triumph over it is easy to distinguish. The miracle is unmistakable. Our relief is grand and gratitude reigns. No, the ClearCaptions App on my iPhone is not a miracle. That would be corny and weird. But the immense gratitude and joy that has carried me through the week is nothing short of amazing.
Take Nothing for Granted
I itemize these laments for the benefit of hearing people too. Like you, I was blessed for the first 48 years of my life to hear every human laugh, cry, voice and song that God so graciously placed before me. Yes, I once knew sound just like you hear it now. It’s an extraordinary gift you know. Yes, it is. Each of our senses serves a vital purpose to connect us to our fellows and engulf us fully in the splendor of God’s universe. Don’t take that for granted. Trust me, you never know.
.[bquote]Each of our senses serves a vital purpose to connect us to our fellows and engulf us fully in the splendor of God’s universe.[/bquote]
It is oh-so easy to undervalue routine privileges. Unabridged discourse between we humans is the common touch that binds us– so common that we no longer marvel at the wonder of it; the way we once did, for example, when we watched in awe as our newborn child recognizes our voice, immediately responds and progressively learns to speak back! You forgot about that, didn’t you?
No wonder then, that most folks are wholly unimpressed by connecting and conversing on a mobile phone. It is, after all, a routine daily occurrence in our high-tech, high-touch age. Oh sure, you “love” your Smartphone. It’s convenient to call people on the go. But hey, people do it everyday. What’s the big thing?
The Big Thing
Allow me to explain: Let’s look again at the list. I haven’t been able to use my iPhone as a telephone for 19 months. No calls. Nada. By now seeing every word you say on the display, I am no longer subjected to your abbreviated text version. Telephone conversations will be complete again and I will not be starved for the intimate details. My constant uncertainty about conversations after the fact is alleviated as well. In fact, now I can review your words-turned-text long after the phone call ends. I can copy your words, for example, from my display screen and paste them into an email to myself. This ability to read your words back is the most effective “paraphrase” methodology I’ve come across yet. My retention of our conversation is thus exponentially enhanced.
[bquote_left]I began to recall the sound of her voice again in my minds eye![/bquote_left]
I spoke with my daughter Amanda the other night. We discussed her college prospects. She’s very excited to be accepted at prominent schools. She couldn’t wait to tell me. And for an agonizing year and a half, I couldn’t wait to hear her! I literally ached because we no longer connected the way we enjoyed before I went deaf. But not this time! Not only was our conversation effortless and complete, but by reading Amanda’s every word and seeing the pace and vocabulary, I began to recall the sound of her voice again in my minds eye! I was losing the precious memory of her sound. And now it’s coming back!
So now I’m hinged with elation to my daughters’ every precious word. No more uncertainty or awkward pauses. The conversation flows and we connect. I can listen to my children again without missing a syllable. That’s a pretty big thing, don’t you think?
I’ll say! So for me, this obscure ClearCaptions App is a game changer. I spent the better part of this glorious week calling everyone like a giddy child from a remote village who never used a telephone. And as friends and family spoke to me, I marveled at watching every utterance auto-fill my iPhone screen. I know it’s just a handy gadget. But my exuberance is indescribable.
[bquote]I want you to know that I heard everything you said. Everything.[/bquote]
I want all of you to know that I heard everything you said. Everything. I see the sound of your voice and joy resonates. Thanks for chatting! Let’s do it again real soon.
Author’s Update March, 2012. My enthusiasm about iPhone captioning has not waned even a little since writing this post in December, 2011. However, then and now I am NOT a representative or advocate of the ClearCaptions product. It just happens to be the App I came across at the time. Moreover, like any technology solution, there are good features and, well, not so perfect ones. As far as ClearCaptions goes, the speed of their real-time captioning is top notch. In other words, there is very little lag time between what the caller is saying, and what the captionist translates to text on my iPhone display. So kudos to them all around. But, ClearCaptions, in my experience, is fraught with technical glitches. It’s interface with the iPhone is clunky and it has locked up on me at the most inopportune moments, often in mid conversation. They have had some App development issues as well, requiring multiple times where I had to delete the existing App version on my iPhone and re-download it. Captionists are not always immediately available and their entire network has either gone down or my connectivity (which depends on the reliability of both IP and phone service) has inexplicably dropped off. So “planning” an important phone call relying on ClearCaptions is iffy business. Finally, swinging back to the good, they have an extremely responsive technical, sales and executive management team who–in fairness– has suffered my customer-complaint fury with professionalism and patience. They are genuinely apologetic, responsive and obviously concerned when problems have come up. They most recently came clean with me as well, that their product is designed primarily for the hard of hearing community (not the deaf) to “enhance” their telephone communication experience with text in addition to sound. My world, on the other hand, is soundless, so I am a tough customer, so to speak. The product is still worth my time and attention and I keep hoping it gets better. My recommendation is to try it and be grateful, as I am, for the wonder of it’s benefits and patient (as I am not) for the flaws of their technology.