Dec 21

Struggling with Phone Calls Due to Difficulty Hearing, Speaking or Seeing?

logo for MassRelay hearing assistance

Are you or a loved one frustrated because you have difficulty hearing or speaking during phone calls or perhaps because you have difficulty hearing and seeing? MassRelay makes telephone conversations possible for individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind or have difficulty speaking on the phone. The service is available 24 hours a day at no cost making it possible for individuals with these challenges to communicate effectively with less frustration.

Several relay service options are available to accommodate the needs of various users. Options include:

TTY (Text Telephone) is a telephone with a keyboard and a screen. With this, you can type and read conversations. The relay operations read aloud what you type for the hearing person you’ve called and then type their response back to you.

VCO (Voice Carry Over) is designed for people who can speak clearly but may have difficulty hearing. You can use your own voice to speak directly to people who you call and read their reply when the relay operator sends it to your screen.

HCO (Hearing Carry Over) is designed for people who can hear but have difficulty speaking clearly. You can listen to the other person speak and type your response to the relay operator on a text telephone (TTY). The operator then repeats what you typed to the other person.

DBS (Deaf-Blind Service) allows people with combined hearing and vision loss to place and receive telephone calls. DBS users type their messages and read the other person’s responses, typed by the OPR, on a braille display.

 STS (Speech-to-Speech) Speech-to-speech (STS) is designed for people who can hear but may have difficulty being understood.  Operators are trained to be familiar with a wide variety of speech patterns. You can use your own voice to speak directly to people you call, and the operator will be there to clarify as needed.

Voice allows standard phone users to communicate with individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind or have difficulty speaking and who may use a TTY, TeleBraille or another assistive telecommunications device. An Operator (OPR) facilitates the call by relaying messages between the individuals, according to their communication needs.

CapTel® (Captioned Telephone) is a service that allows users to listen to their phone conversations while reading captions of what’s said to them. Using a uniquely designed captioned telephone, users speak directly to the other party and listen and read the other party’s response. Captions appear on the bright, built-in display screen of the captioned telephone, just moments after the other party has spoken.

Some of the services require specialized equipment and some do not. If you live with a disability, the Massachusetts Equipment Distribution Program (MassEDP) may be able to provide you with a specialized telephone network. Depending on your income level, these telephones may come for free or at reduced cost. Learn more at

All the services are available in English and Spanish. 711 is the national three-digit number for relay access and to begin a relay call, the caller dials 7-1-1. Learn more at

Making a telephone call to schedule an appointment, order take-out food or check an account balance is a part of everyday life. For individuals who have difficulty hearing or speaking over the phone and use Relay services to make calls, these everyday contacts can sometimes cause frustration if a business or organization is not familiar with Relay and how it works. MassRelay offers a training program to businesses and their employees called the Relay Friendly Business program. To become a Relay Friendly Business or to recommend a business for training, contact MassRelay Customer Care at

Whether it is reaching out to a friend or relative just to chat or to make an appointment or conduct business, MassRelay can help those who find standard phone communication challenging. Further, the more businesses that become knowledgeable about MassRelay, the more successful the service will be.