Tips For Video Calls And Group Chats For Hearing Loss

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Our world has transformed in the last year, and many of us continue racing to keep up with the abrupt nature of the change. One of the powerful changes to the way we communicate is the prevalence of videoconferencing. Whether it is a chat with your friends and family, a class discussion taking place remotely, or an important meeting with coworkers, video calls have become the newly dominant way to communicate. 

Although the addition of a live video feed gives more context than a phone call, it also provides some new challenges for those who have hearing loss or impairment. When we enter the videoconference environment, we use our ears and eyes to follow the flow of information, and hearing loss can obscure half of the process of communication. 

Let’s take a look at some ways to make the process of a video conference call as good as possible for all involved, including those with hearing loss. 

Maximize Audio Quality

On the many platforms for video calls, including Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Team, Facetime, and other new arrivals to the technology environment, each has comparative benefits and liabilities on the platform. Maximizing audio quality in each of these contexts is a crucial step to make communication easier for all involved. 

Whenever possible, reduce background noise. Whether a fan, space heater, lawn care outside the window, or noises coming from within the house, try to find the quietest place for your calls. Using a microphone is quite helpful, whether that means installing a new piece of hardware on your desk or simply using the attached microphone on your earbuds. 

No matter the interface you employ, try to reduce background noise and speak loudly and clearly. If you are not talking on the call, try to mute your microphone as much as possible. Background sounds from other participants can be as much a culprit for misunderstanding as noises in one’s own video conference context. 

Incorporate Captioning

Some video conference platforms supply captioning, while others do not. If your platform does not have a live captioning option built in, then you can often seek a third-party supplier of these captions. Although live captions don’t always precisely capture what is said, they do give important context where it is missing.

You might not even need to intentionally read these captions to reap their benefits, particularly when they appear directly below a person’s face in the video call. 

If you do not have captioning available, some people have had success by incorporating a smartphone or other device. If you place your smartphone or tablet within sight of the video conference screen, you can sometimes use an app on that device that provides captioning. Some even enjoy the disconnect between the primary screen and the captioning device. 

Modify The Video Call Environment

Beyond these strategies that can be employed to make the call as good as possible, you might also be able to change the nature of the call with accommodation in mind. Smaller groups tend to be better than larger ones for a number of reasons. Not only are participants less likely to interrupt one another, they also feel more free chiming in when they have something to say.

Asking participants to raise a hand or otherwise signal the desire to speak before jumping in is an easy way to reduce the number of moments when two people begin talking at once. Beyond changing the nature of the videoconference, proper visual context can be quite helpful for others in the call who might have hearing loss. Keep your lighting as natural and bright as possible, and position your camera close to your face in order to capture as much nuance in your facial expressions as possible.

If you put some intention into developing your video conference environment, it can have lasting effects for all those involved. Beyond these strategies you can employ to make video conferences more effective for those with hearing loss, a strong Internet connection is perhaps the best thing to improve communication quality.

At this point, most of us have been in a video call with someone who has a bad connection, leading to glitches in both audio and video. Do what you can to solve these problems with connectivity, and the other strategies will produce a conference that is effective for all involved.

Hearing Loss Treatment

If you’ve struggled with hearing loss, why not take a hearing test? If a hearing loss is detected, we will work with you to determine the best hearing aids for your hearing needs. Many hearing aids now offer Bluetooth connectivity, which can help immensely with video conference calls. Contact us today!

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Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A

Dr. Jennifer G. Mayer purchased South Shore Hearing Center in January 2016. She was born and raised in Swampscott, MA. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in speech and hearing in 1996 from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and her Master’s degree in audiology from the Northeastern University in 1998. Dr. Mayer fulfilled her Clinical Fellowship Year (CFY) in 1999 at Hear USA and Cape Cod Ear, Nose and Throat. Following her CFY, Dr. Mayer was a staff audiologist in various clinical settings, including Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She joined the South Shore Hearing Center staff in 2006. Dr. Mayer obtained her Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) degree from the A.T. Still University, Arizona School of Health Sciences in 2008. Dr. Mayer’s specialties are diagnostic audiology, pediatric and adult amplification and educational audiology. Dr. Mayer is a fellow of the American Academy of Audiology. She is licensed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in Audiology and certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

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