Monday, February 28, 2011

AT&T Introduces Video Relay Service App for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Users

App Allows Users To Make Video Relay Service Calls With iPhone 4

AT&T* announced a new video relay service (VRS) app for iPhone 4 that allows deaf and hard of hearing customers to make VRS calls. The AT&T VRS app is available today on the App Store.

AT&T VRS is a service that allows a person who uses American Sign Language (ASL) to place a relay call to a hearing person by communicating through a certified ASL interpreter. AT&T has offered video relay services to customers for many years, but the new AT&T VRS app provides a more flexible and convenient way for users to make VRS calls on the go. iPhone 4 customers can make unlimited VRS calls using the AT&T VRS app at no additional cost.

"AT&T is committed to serving the deaf and hard of hearing communities, and our new AT&T VRS app is one more way we're enhancing our offerings," said Susan Johnson, senior vice president of AT&T Customer Information Services. "Now our customers can make a VRS call at Wi-Fi hotspots using iPhone 4, which makes VRS easier and more accessible for everyone."

The AT&T VRS app is simple and easy to use. Users launch the app, log-in, and then can either choose to place a VRS call by selecting someone from their contact list or by manually dialing a number. The app contacts an AT&T ASL interpreter who then initiates a FaceTime video call with the user.** The interpreter will connect the ASL user to the hearing person they are calling, and relays the conversation between the two parties through ASL.

In addition to the app, AT&T VRS also offers a free software download called AT&T Video Link that turns a computer or laptop into a video phone. This software works on certain Macs and PCs enabled with a web cam and a broadband connection.

AT&T VRS will also provide users with a ten-digit telephone number and supports all the FCC required 911 emergency capabilities.

The AT&T VRS app is available for free from the App Store on iPhone or at For additional information about AT&T VRS, please visit, or access AT&T VRS via video phone at or 877-642-0877.

* AT&T products and services are provided or offered by subsidiaries and affiliates of AT&T Inc. under the AT&T brand and not by AT&T Inc.

** FaceTime works over Wi-Fi.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Growth-Factor Gel Shows Promise as Hearing Loss Treatment

A new treatment has been developed for sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL), a condition that causes deafness in 40,000 Americans each year, usually in early middle-age. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Medicine describe the positive results of a preliminary trial of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1), applied as a topical gel.

Takayuki Nakagawa, from Kyoto University, Japan, worked with a team of researchers to test the gel in 25 patients whose SSHL had not responded to the normal treatment of systemic gluticosteroids. He said, "The results indicated that the topical IGF1 application using gelatin hydrogels was safe, and had equivalent or superior efficiency to the hyperbaric oxygen therapy that was used as a historical control; this suggests that the efficacy of topical IGF1 application should be further evaluated using randomized clinical trials."

At 12 weeks after the test treatment, 48% of patients showed hearing improvement, and the proportion increased to 56% at 24 weeks. No serious adverse events were observed. This is the first time that growth factors have been tested as a hearing remedy. According to Nakagawa, "Although systemic glucocorticoid application results in hearing recovery in some patients with SSHL, approximately 20% show no recovery. Topical IGF1 application using gelatin hydrogels is well tolerated and may be efficacious for these patients."

Editor's Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Journal Reference:

Takayuki Nakagawa, Tatsunori Sakamoto, Harukazu Hiraumi, Yayoi S Kikkawa, Norio Yamamoto, Kiyomi Hamaguchi, Kazuya Ono, Masaya Yamamoto, Yasuhiko Tabata, Satoshi Teramukai, Shiro Tanaka, Harue Tada, Rie Onodera, Atsushi Yonezawa, Ken-ichi Inui and Juichi Ito. A Topical insulin-like growth factor 1 treatment using gelatin hydrogels for glucocorticoid-resistant sudden sensorineural hearing loss: a prospective clinical trial.BMC Medicine, (in press)

Taken from

Monday, February 14, 2011

White Noise Therapy Alone Not Enough to Curb Tinnitus

Tinnitus - what many think of as “ringing in the ears” — is the perception of sound without any real acoustic stimulation. Sound masking therapy, a common component of tinnitus treatment, is of uncertain benefit when used on its own, a new evidence review finds.

Tinnitus sufferers might hear one sound or multiple ones; they can hear them continuously or intermittently. The sounds are imperceptible to others. For most people, the phantom sounds — hissing, whooshing and others — hardly matter.

But for a small minority, tinnitus causes severe problems, such as anxiety, insomnia and even major depression sometimes leading to suicide.

Jonathan Hobson, lead author of the new Cochrane review, said that sound therapy relies on distraction, with an additional noise — often called white noise — reducing the contrast between the patient’s tinnitus signal and the background noise. This reduces the person’s perception of the phantom sounds and the distress they cause.

Hobson and colleagues at the Centre for Hearing and Balance Studies at Bristol University, in England, summarized the results of six studies of 553 adults with persistent tinnitus who underwent sound therapy either alone or combined with other treatments.

People receive sound therapy in several ways: by devices worn in or on the ear, by headphones connected to an MP3-like device or with an under-the-pillow speaker for night use.

Sound masking rarely is a standalone therapy; other treatment methods usually accompany it. Tinnitus therapies include medications, psychological interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy and holistic approaches such as acupuncture.

Most tinnitus sufferers are adults between about 50 and 70 years of age who also have diminished hearing. Accordingly, for most, hearing aids represent a first line of treatment, improving the hearing of actual external sounds and diminishing the phantom sounds at the same time.

The review was published by the Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical trials on a topic.

“[The review] does not provide high-quality evidence that sound therapy devices are better than alternative treatments, but they are probably better than no treatment at all and certainly no harm or adverse effects have been reported with their use,” Hobson said. “The six trials included were all very different in nature and compared sound therapy devices to a variety of other interventions: information, counseling, tinnitus retraining therapy, hearing aids or no treatment.

U.S. tinnitus expert, Robert Sweetow, Ph.D., views the use of sound therapy somewhat differently. He said that sound therapy, as used today, does not aim to mask tinnitus. “Rather, it is meant to mingle with the tinnitus and provide acoustic stimulation to the brain to help compensate for the lack of stimulation caused by hearing loss,” he said.

Hobson said that one study did report that subjectively patients found the sound therapy devices to be useful with lower levels of 'tinnitus annoyance' with their use.

Sweetow, a professor of otolaryngology at the University of California, San Francisco, has treated patients and studied tinnitus for more than 30 years. He agreed with the reviewers that the weight of evidence does not support sound therapy as a primary treatment.

“Rather they, and I, would consider sound therapy to be adjunctive to counseling,” Sweetow said. “The authors acknowledge this, stating that the studies they reviewed used a combination of approaches, making it impossible to properly delineate why effects occurred.”

Sweetow also concurred with the authors that there are few good long-term studies supporting sound therapy. Still, he said, “I would not like to see the medical community conclude that sound therapy is not helpful on the basis of this analysis. Rather, I would conclude that sound therapy is useful only when combined with a counseling component to complete a therapeutic process.”

“Hearing aids are a part of sound therapy and there is absolutely no doubt that they help most tinnitus patients.” Sweetow added.

He cautioned review readers from concluding that there is no evidence in support of sound therapy: “There is simply no way one can, or should, separate sound therapy from counseling strategies since the ultimate goal must be habituation, or conscious suppression, rather than elimination of the tinnitus.”

Source: Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health

Hobson J, Chisholm E, El Refaie A. Sound therapy (masking) in the management of tinnitus in adults (review)Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 12.

Monday, February 7, 2011

If Movie Captions are Important to You, Tell the DOJ!

The DOJ proposes to require movie theater owners and operators to show films with closed captioning. DOJ proposes to limit this requirement to no more than 50 percent of the films shown, and DOJ is willing to give owners and operators up to 5 years to get to the 50 percent mark.

HLAA believes that "full and equal enjoyment" of services under the Americans with Disabilities Act means that people with hearing loss must be provided the kind of accommodations that would allow us to attend any movie anytime. For people with significant hearing loss, that means 100% captioning. We believe that an across the board industry cap of 50% is arbitrary and inconsistent with the law.

HLAA's position on movie captioning is:
  • All movies should be made accessible to movie goers with hearing loss though captioning.
  • People with hearing loss should be able to see any movie at any time on any day.
  • There are many ways to caption movies today. HLAA does not specify the method used to caption the movie so long as it provides effective communication.
DOJ is seeking comments in response to 26 questions. The entire document with all the questions can be accessed at You can reply to some or all of the questions. We suggest at a minimum, that you respond to DOJ Question #1:

1. DOJ is proposing that the percentage of movie screens offering closed captioning be set at 10 percent after one year and increased 10 percent a year until 50 percent is reached. Does this approach provide a proper balance between providing accessibility to consumers, on one hand, and giving owners and operators time to acquire the necessary equipment, on the other hand?

Send your comments to the DOJ today! 

Comments sent by U.S. mail must be postmarked and electronic comments must be transmitted on or beforeJanuary 24, 2011.
  • State the question(s) you are responding to. You can focus all your comments on question #1 or add more.
  • State why you are interested in responding. For example, that you have a hearing loss and cannot attend movies without effective closed captioning.
  • State what you want to see: 100% captions, 5 years or less, no later than January 2016.
  • State how lack of captions has impacted you. State why you think 100% captioning is needed.
  • Thank the DOJ
  • Sign your name.
You can use this Sample Letter as a guide to draft your own letter. It’s best if you do more than just copy and paste this sample letter onto the DOJ form. We believe you will have a greater impact if you write about your own experience going to the movies, and tell the DOJ why movie captioning is important to you.

We did it for the ADA. Let’s do it again for movie captioning. Send your comments to the DOJ!

Thank you!

Brenda Battat
Executive Director

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Stars Align to Benefit Charity Event Superbowl Weekend

Portion of proceeds to benefit CSD Communication Service for the Deaf

The Jose Feliciano Foundation and Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund throw "The Best Party in Texas" during Super Bowl XLV weekend, and the stars align to benefit charity. Corporate speaker, author, and Texas businessman Jose Feliciano is celebrating Super Bowl XLV in grand style by sponsoring "The Best Party in Texas" - which will benefit a number of national and local Texas charities on Saturday, February 5, 2011. With over 150 celebrities and athletes confirmed and over 1000 guests expected, the party promises to be one of the most memorable Super Bowl weekend parties in football history.

The star-studded event is being hosted by actress Carmen Electra, Bill Rancic from The Apprentice, and his wife Giuliana Rancic star of E! News. In addition to Super Bowl Champions Bill Bates and Jay Novacek, Coach Mike Ditka and more than 70 Gridiron Greats Hall of Famers, celebrity party guests will include the Ultimate Cheerleaders and Aubrey O'Day, with entertainment provided by the Emerald City Band, American Outlaw, and DJ Krave of Grammy Award winning Play-N-Skillz.

For 25 years, Feliciano has based his life on hard work and inspiring greatness in all around him by connecting people with their passion. President of the Feliciano Financial Group hich recently achieved the milestone of being awarded the Crystal Eagle award by Woodbury Financial Services, Inc., which places the firm number one in the country for Woodbury Financial Services, Feliciano explains, "Part of our process to ensure the best for our clients is to never be complacent. We are continually searching for ways to improve our service and inspire those around us."

This is not the first time at the rodeo of community service for Feliciano. He has lived his life building, motivating, and planting seeds for further growth. "The true secret to ongoing success is to pay it forward," he explains. "I learned from my parents to never see limitations, only endless possibilities. This is a timeless truth. Inspiring people to greatness is the great joy in my life."

The son of deaf parents, Feliciano is passionate about contributing to the deaf community and paying it forward hich is why a portion of the party proceeds will benefit the CSD Communication Service for the Deaf. Other charities to benefit from the first-ever pre-game party in Super Bowl history to donate 100% of the net profits are The Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund, Ronald McDonald House Charities®, Habitat for Humanity, Wednesday's Child, and the Leanne Novacek Memorial.

The party is being held at Dallas/Fort Worth's premier entertaining center, the fabulous Embassy Suites Outdoor World. Tickets for this once-in-a-lifetime exclusive party are limited and available online beginning today at

Feliciano Foundation

The Feliciano Foundation is dedicated to increasing the scope of philanthropy throughout the United States, by raising funds for various national charities. The foundation's founder Jose Feliciano believes in cultivating the seeds of growth for organizations dedicated to helping those less fortunate, raising awareness of each charity's needs and specific goals by organizing a number of public events each year.

Taken from