Doug TimewellDoug Timewell, vice president, Wynd Communications, San Luis Obispo, CA.

Wireless communication devices, such as pagers and other mobile tools, have literally become must-have items for many people, both for business and personal use. But what about for hearing-impaired people? HR talked with Doug Timewell, vice president of sales and marketing for Wynd Communications in San Luis Obispo, Calif, about his company’s wireless device for the hard of hearing, WyndTell. The portable wireless device, a hand held two-way pager, allows users to send and received e-mails, search the Internet, and communicate with each other.

Q: Could you tell us about WyndTell’s wireless communication device for people with hearing loss?
As a company, we are totally focused on deaf and hard of hearing people. That is our market. This device is a mainstream product used by many traditional companies. We’ve kept the essential core of that product. One of the main components is a text-to-voice feature. This allows someone to send a text message from the device to a telephone. Then the other person can call a relay operator and give them a message, which they can then relay as text to the deaf person. You can basically dialog on the phone with the other person on the pager. It really bridges that gap. There’s also an Internet browser on the device, with programmed linked content to other areas on the Internet. We are also able, with this technology, to link it with TTY Messaging. Imaging that I’m a normal-hearing person, but my mother is hearing impaired, and maybe she has a TTY from a state program. This links it all together, with the mobile device linking to the pager. It’s all about bringing together communication gaps.

Q: Why would hearing health care providers be especially interested in this sort of a product for their patients?
: It can differentiate your practice, which is something every hearing care professional wants to do. This gives patients a broader range of communications options, and can work to drive traffic to the practice. Mobile messaging appeals to baby boomer patients in particular. There are a lot of technically savvy people out there who will want this product.

Q: What do providers need to know to recommend WyndTell to a patient? Are there special skills or knowledge required to identify candidates for the pager?
The greatest thing about this device is that the provider does not need to know much about the technology. They can profile the patient’s ability, ask them if they use a cell phone, how much they use e-mail, etc. There isn’t any technical prowess or knowledge required. You can just click on to learn more about what we call the Wynd Affiliate Network, or you could call 800-549-2700. That is really what brings the program together. When you go to the site to request information, we then send you a kit that helps identify candidates. It is essentially a free program to join, and we basically become your technical adviser at that point.

Q: What do you see happening in the future with this type of technology?
For one thing, when people travel, they are so dependent on mobile communications. I just see it getting bigger and better, because people are demanding better and more up to date products. And the demand is just going to keep growing. However, it will take education for it to really work in this community. We have really started to make inroads in the hearing community in the past year. We have really grown and become profitable, but this product was introduced back in 1997, so you can see that it takes a while to catch on.

–Ben Van Houten