By Carolyn Stern
Assistant Director of Outreach and Strategic Initiatives
Conducting work and social life through video conferencing is a big adjustment for everyone in this new environment. This is especially difficult for people with hearing loss who typically prefer or are better able to communicate close up and in person.
Ensuring a good visual of each participant, strong quality audio, respectful communication etiquette and sensitivity to the unique communication accommodations needed for hearing loss can go a long way in making video conferencing sessions hearing loss friendly. Following are our tips:
Tip #1. Good visuals. Request that all participants put their cameras on and ensure they’re sitting in a space with good lighting that brightens up the face. And, be mindful of too much backlighting, such as light shining through from a window behind a workstation, because this can distort the image. Each participant should sit reasonably close to the webcam camera, so the image is well projected. In addition, each participant should make sure the top of their head to their elbows is seen on camera. All of these suggestions will provide optimal viewing of important cues such as facial expressions, body language, gestures and motion to locate who’s speaking, increase comprehension, facilitate speech reading.
Tip #2. High quality audio. Everyone should use a high quality microphone or a headset/microphone combo to ensure high quality audio transmission. And, microphones on mute is a must, unless, of course, you’re the one speaking.
Tip #3. Respectful communication etiquette. The host should enforce one speaker at a time and direct the conversation by calling on people to speak in turn. Participants should state their name before speaking to help direct the person with hearing loss to their camera view. Another way to do this is with the “Raise Hand” tool. It is an advanced feature in Zoom that notifies all participants when you’d like a turn to speak with a pop-up icon image of a hand raising. It would be helpful if each person spoke succinctly into their microphone and avoided excessive use of fillers such as “um,” “so.” Avoid cross talk and side conversations.
Tip #4. Facilitate communication typically difficult for a person with hearing loss. Use the chat feature to collect questions and provide details like links, phone numbers, emails or a meeting date. Those types of details are difficult for the person with hearing loss to follow. Stick to an agenda. It is difficult for a person with hearing loss to follow when spontaneous topics come up. If there’s a change in topic, announce to the group the new topic at hand. Give the person with hearing loss a chance to contribute. It may be difficult for them to pick up on the cue of when to jump in because they’re usually very occupied following the meeting. Give them a chance to process the information and formulate a response, if asked a question.
We hope you will give these tips a try if you’re hosting a meeting with individuals with a hearing loss. And, if you have a hearing loss yourself, we encourage and support you in sharing these ideas with your team, clients and social circles to improve hearing on video conferencing calls. Usually everyone benefits, not just the person with hearing loss. Let us know how it goes. And, do you have any other useful tips? Please share a comment below or feel free to email me.
More Videoconferencing Tips for Zoom and Other Platforms
This post is just one in a series from CHC to help you Hear and Connect better through communication strategies and technology solutions that you can use at home. Click below to check out these related posts:
Remember, CHC is here for you. If you are having difficulty hearing well with any aspect of your remote work set-up, or are looking for support in any way, please contact your CHC audiologist.
If you prefer, you can call our main number in New York at 917-305-7700 or in Ft. Lauderdale at 954-601-1930. Or click here to email us and we’ll direct your message to the appropriate clinician.
If you’re not currently a CHC client, but need assistance, we’re happy to help. Also consider reaching out to your hearing aid manufacturer’s help line which is also readily available to aid as well.