This year continues to create challenges most of us never anticipated. With COVID-19 as a widespread health concern, many things in our daily lives continue to change rapidly.
For many professionals, used to interacting in an in person office setting, suddenly we are now working from home, virtually online. Group business meetings, conferences, classes and even friend and family gatherings are now held over video conferencing apps like Zoom, Skype and Facetime. This world event will most likely affect the way we interact with each other for years to come.
For those of us that are hearing impaired this pandemic has created many unanticipated challenges. While it was already a challenge to hear in meetings now we must navigate new ways of communication. The good news is that with this increase in video technology and advocacy for your hearing needs, there are many solutions to accommodate those with hearing loss while communicating virtually.
Advocacy over virtual communication
Now with the increase of use of facemasks in public, one of the most vital tools for many with hearing loss is compromised. Many with hearing loss rely on facial expression and lip reading in order to supplement for hearing loss.
One of the most important tools for successfully communicating virtually employs the same skills you used when meetings were in person. Just like at the start of any meeting with a new group of people, it is important to disclose your hearing loss at the beginning of the video conference and to clearly communicate your needs around what will help you participate to the fullest.
The more honest and forthright you are about your disability, the smoother the meeting will go. If you need to write out information or have others do so, do not hesitate to request this.
Using technology to your advantage
The beauty of meeting virtually is that you can utilize many tools that can make communication easier than before. Many video conferencing apps like Google Meet have a real time talk to text transcribe function that provides subtitles to conversation. If you are not on an app that does this already you can utilize different closed caption apps such as Live Transcribe, Otter Voice Meeting Notes or e-Dictate. As we transfer more in person meetings to virtual or over the telephone experiences we can take advantage of Bluetooth technology, which can sync hearing aids, and headphones to your computer’s audio.
Tips for successful and accessible video conferences
Video conferencing technology is developing quickly as the demand for more online meetings increases. Still, there is a huge learning curve in making this technology accessible for all. One thing that can help people with hearing issues is to insist that people keep their microphones on mute when not speaking. This can reduce background noise, feedback and static, which can interfere with the clarity of the call. Other strategies to make virtual meetings more accessible for everyone is to make sure that all participants are well lit, so listeners who are hard of hearing can use visual cues to understand. It can also be helpful to record the meeting so those with hearing loss can review the footage for clarification on details they may have missed.
Preparing for virtual meetings with hearing loss
When preparing for virtual meetings make sure to sync your hearing aids via Bluetooth. If you do not have this ability you can also try a headset or headphones so the sound arrives more clearly in your ears. If you are struggling with background noise around you during the meeting you may benefit from noise cancelling headphones so you are not distracted by the background sounds in your home and neighbors. Noise cancelling headphones detect the noise around you and transmit the opposite or inverted sound wave of the noise detected. This actively cancels out both sound waves, eliminating distracting background noise.
Explore your hearing options
This is new to most of us and we are all learning as we go. If you are discovering that you are struggling over video conferences and you suspect that it may be an issue with hearing loss, make an appointment to have your ears checked. We can help you understand the extent of your hearing ability and help you explore your options to help you excel.