Captions Wherever You Go

It’s rare that a new app or product comes on the hearing device market that seems revolutionary. But Google has come out with a voice to text app that is potentially game-changing for those of us with severe hearing loss.

Although I have an excellent hearing aid and a state of the art cochlear implant, I still have trouble understanding speech in a group or in a noisy environment. Existing voice to text apps like AVA and Dragon Dictation help in those situations, but Google Transcribe far out performs them.

Google Transcribe is a free app that is currently available only for Android devices. I’ve been using it for the past month or so and didn’t want to write about it till I understood the pros and cons.

There are cons, as a glance at the photo illustrates. It starts out fine and then deteriorates.Google Transcribe IMG_0495

This transcript was made during a discussion with three other people. Looking at the transcript now, a day after the conversation took place, the text seems pretty garbled. It seemed perfectly clear at the time, probably because I can also hear enough to provide context. My book club was discussing Geraldine Brooks’ novel “March,” which imagines Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” from the perspective of the father who goes off to the Civil War. “Marmion” in this text refers to Marmee. I’m not sure what the word “Reversible” was supposed to be, but the rest of it seems clear enough.

Using the device at my book club, the discussion at first appeared in Spanish. Google Transcribe is also a translation app and has dozens of languages to choose from. I must have clicked on Spanish by mistake.

If you have an Android phone, all you need to do is download the Google Transcribe app. If, like me, you are a loyal Apple user, you’re out of luck unless you buy an Android device. Fellow blogger Shari Eberts, who wrote about Google Transcribe a few weeks ago, suggested buying an inexpensive Android device and not registering for phone service.

I bought this device. Since I’m not an Android user it took me a few tries to figure how to turn it on and navigate around it. I should have had the sales person show me how it works. It’s a nice slim phone and it charges quickly. As long as it’s connected to WiFi, it gets Internet access. I recently used this phone for GalaPro (see earlier post), because the type is clearer and larger than that on my iPhone. It even has a nice camera.

Live Transcribe also provides live captioning for any video, including podcasts, Skype calls and others. You can read more about this on in an article by David Copithorne.

Live Transcribe is an artificial-intelligence based technology, which means that it learns how to hear speech. Your own voice will quickly be the most accurate, because it’s the one the app is most often exposed to. Other speakers will also transcribe more or less accurately depending on background noise, how clearly the speaker articulates and so on. It may take longer for Live Transcribe to recognize and accurately translate heavily accented speech.

Copithorne also wrote about Google’s Project Euphonia, which learns to recognize diverse speech patterns, for instance speech impediments. In partnership with the ALS Therapy Development Institute, Google Transcribe’s algorithms will enable it to learn to follow the speech patterns of people with ALS.

I haven’t tried Google Transcribe yet in a restaurant but I have successfully used it in environments that were previously very difficult. One is at our HLAA New York City chapter monthly meeting. The presentations are looped and captions are provided by CART. But I’ve always found it difficult to hear people who want to talk to me before or after the program. I used it this past week and it changed the whole experience. I could actually understand what people were saying. (CART, at least for now, is a superior caption provider, but since you can’t take your CART provider with you most of the time, Google Transcribe is a good substitute.)

Last week Apple stores were holding workshops for people with disabilities to demonstrate ways that Apple products could be of help. I had asked for CART captioning for the workshop, but Apple was unable to provide it. The workshop was held in a typically loud Apple Store. Apple had provided a portable hearing loop, which helped. But the only way I followed the presentation was on my Android phone using Google Translate.

It seems like heresy to use an Android phone in an Apple Store, but the presenters were impressed. Let’s hope Apple follows Google’s lead in this promising new technology.



Android’s Live Transcribe will let you save transcriptions and show ‘sound events’.

Click to read the article.







30 thoughts on “Captions Wherever You Go

  1. Just found out from Rochester Institute fir the Deaf that there is one for iPhone which is Microsoft Transcribe, and it is free. Am going to experiment it first and then will make comments in the future. Am looking forward to this new thing!!!


      • Will do once I learn the rope of this tech. (Dinosaur age…candidate).
        THANK YOU for all you do to help us w/ new ideas & tips! We appreciate you!


      • I tried it last night but was having some issues – you can ask it to translate from English to English? It was doing a great job English to Spanish.


  2. I’ve been using Live Transcribe since April and have joined the beta testing team. It’s not out in public yet, but a newer version has more features. I’ve found using LT with a good ($60) lavalier mike helps with background noise. This is a game-changing app, but has its limitations.


  3. I need to make a correction on the App, and that is:
    Microsoft Translator rather than Transcript. Sorry if caused some confusion.


  4. Hi Katherine thanks so much for the information…fortunately for me after becoming a bilateral CI user I am able to hear in noisy environments pretty well now! I do use my mini mic to hear speakers in a large group .
    Are you a candidate to become bilateral? It sure has changed my world how I can hear now !


    • Hi Jane, I am a candidate for a second c.i. but I have a hearing aid that I love and until it stops working for me, I’m going to keep using it.
      Also, and maybe others out there can offer suggestions, my c.i. causes one problem. I do Pilates, which involves a lot of lying on your back on the floor. My c.i. processor invariably falls off within the first five minutes. I have a very wide headband that helps, but it’s not wide enough to cover both the earpiece and the headpiece. A loose light hat would not work because the c.i. would still dislodge. I could wear a tight hat, like a bathing cap, but that would not only look pretty funny but it would be very uncomfortable. One reason I’m reluctant to part with my hearing aid is that I can hear the instructor via my hearing aid’s clip on mic. Any suggestions?


      • Hi Katherine, I have been following you and learning so much. I wear two hearing aids and and am a boater and around water much of the time. I am always worried about getting my hearing aids wet and have found a product that would probably work for you to keep your c.i on. It is called dry flx neck warmer. it is a very light stretchy material that I wear as a headband. It is wide, about 12 to 14 inches and I cut it in half with more than enough material to cover behind the ear hearing aids. It fits snug around your head but does not cause hearing aid feedback. You can find them in surf or boating stores. If you need anymore information about it I would be glad to help.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t really know. You could ask at your local Apple Store. On May 16 Apple Stores in NYC offered programs for people with various disabilities. I heard about it when someone contacted me through our chapter’s website. There were about 8 workshops, only one was applicable to people with hearing loss.


    • Any App Store…, “ live caption “, for app. I use the App on my I phone. Works well with a better accuracy than my speech comprehension.


  5. Donna, Do a search for Today at Apple. Put in your location and you will get a list of workshops in your area. If there are no hearing loss sessions, go to the local Apple store and ask the Manager to add them. A member of staff has typed for me. It sounds like that may not be necessary in the near future.


      • Got confused! By the way, have you ever considered obtaining a hearing service dog?


      • I have a regular dog and I think they will not place a service dog where there’s a pet in the house. I could be wrong. I haven’t looked carefully.
        By the way, I assume you are Henry Kisor of What’s That Pig Outdoors? Wonderful book! One of my all time favorites. I don’t know if you’ve read my first book, Shouting Won’t Help, but I quote from yours.


  6. Katherine:

    Thanks for the post.

    If you’re interested in accessible apps, 10 percent is a partially accessible app and they’re working on being completely meditation app. Just FYI.


    Get Outlook for iOS ________________________________


  7. Apple does a good job promoting their products with the workshops. I’ve gone to several sessions and a always find them helpful. If the store is very noisy, ask for a quiet space.


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