Telecommunication Relay Services

Technology today gives many options for people with hearing loss to improve their ability to understand information in the world, including hearing aids, assistive listening devices, and cochlear implants. Even with the aid of such technology, one of the biggest barriers for people with hearing loss is to be able to understand what is said over the telephone. Fortunately, Telecommunication Relay Services (TRS) have mitigated this problem by either providing the speaker’s words in text or providing live interpreters that interpret phone calls in American Sign Language.  Indeed, today’s TRS services provide a variety of choices in how people with hearing loss can communicate over the telephone.

Types of TRS Services

Captioned Telephone Service (CTS)

Captioned Telephone Service works like any other telephone with one important addition: CTS transcribes everything the other party says into written text. It does this using the very latest in voice-recognition technology when the operator re-voices what the other party says. CTS users can listen to the caller, and can also read the written captions.


Voice Carry Over, uses traditional relay. The late deafened caller connected to the relay by dialing 7-1-1 and requests VCO. Then gives the relay operator the number of the person they wish to call. The call is connected and the caller speaks for themselves and the relay types what the hearing caller says. The late deafened caller does not hear the voice of the hearing caller with this type of call. Each caller must say “GA” or “Go Ahead” when they are finished to let the relay know they are done speaking.


For callers who are comfortable with an all sign call Video Relay Service is an interpreted phone call where the caller signs to the Video Relay interpreter who voices to the hearing caller and signs back to the signing caller. This is highly effective communication for callers who use ASL (American Sign Language) as their preferred or first language.


Video Relay Service with Voice Carry Over – this type of call uses videophone technology that allows the late deafened caller to connect to a sign language interpreter through a special videophone, either connected to a TV or using their computer or mobile device. By setting up a VCO call, the caller speaks for himself, (either through a regular phone or via the webcam) and the relay interpreter signs back through the videophone what the hearing person says. Unlike traditional relay there is no need for GA between speakers because the interpreter is able to see when the late deafened caller wants to speak. Using this method also allows you to hear the other party on your telephone or via your computer.

IP Relay

Internet Protocol, this technology allows you to use the relay to have a text to voice phone conversation from a computer or from a wireless mobile device. This gives you the equivalent of a cell TTY.

Wireless Devices

Besides being able to use IP Relay, wireless devices can send and receive email and can communicate with cell phones that receive text messages. This is extremely helpful for staying in contact with hearing family and friends that don’t use the same devices. Most new devices also include Instant Messaging features. Communication by text messaging is also universally accepted. Most newer phones and wireless devices also allow for the use of Captioned Telephone apps or Video Relay Service apps as well.