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5 Ways to Help Those With Hearing Loss in Your Next Virtual Call

Love it or hate it, working virtually is likely here to stay. For many companies, keeping in touch via video calls is part of daily operations, as is conducting meetings with clients. However, as convenient as the new work-from-home lifestyle may be, it does present certain challenges for those who may be hearing impaired.

Around 40% of your intentions are conveyed through the tone of voice & inflections you place on certain words. If someone can’t hear you clearly, it’s easy to not just misunderstand your message, but your intention as well – and in the business world, that’s a recipe for disaster. You also don’t want to inadvertently exclude any team members from the discussion, but what can you do from the other side of a computer screen? Well, a lot, actually.

Today, we’re going to go over some low-effort, high-reward things you can do to make sure that your hearing-impaired friends, family, and coworkers can still enjoy the conversation, even if it’s done over Zoom.

1. Make sure you have good video quality, and your mouth is unobscured.

When you’re talking to someone face-to-face and they can’t clearly hear your voice, they’ll likely focus on your mouth to determine what words you’re saying based on the shapes your lips are forming. In a virtual environment, your video is all they have to fall back on.

If possible, use a high-definition camera and broadcast your video in as high a resolution as you’re able. This will allow any hearing-impaired colleagues to gain the maximum amount of information they can from the shape of your mouth, which can help them fill in the blanks if they miss a word here or there.

2. Switch from your computer speakers to headphones with an attached microphone.

It doesn’t matter how quiet you think the room you’re sitting in is. The moment you open up your microphone on a video call, your voice is fighting with echoes, feedback from your computer speakers, outside noise, and even the clacking of your keyboard – and all of that adds up to create a sound that might be hard for even those with perfect hearing to make out!

When you make a video call (especially if there will be multiple participants), plug in a headphone with an attached microphone, and fire up any noise-suppression options available in your video call software. The headphone will help you hear more clearly, so you won’t need to shout into the microphone (which can create a chain reaction of garbled feedback for your listeners). The microphone, placed right near your mouth, will pick up your words clearly while avoiding the brunt of any other ambient noise. This all means that when you speak, it’ll just be your voice that gets transmitted, and that will allow easier understanding from the other members of the call.

3. Enable captions to display speech through text.

Not all video conferencing platforms have this feature, but if they do, it can be a lifesaver, even if you’re not hearing impaired. Switch on captions and, if you’re the call organizer, display them to the rest of the attendees. As the call carries on, the captions will automatically generate with a text copy of what was verbally said, allowing any hearing-impaired attendees to follow along. Plus, if you sneeze or miss a word, you can always look back at the record to catch back up again.

4. Avoid video-call-clutter and speak one at a time.

Meetings usually involve multiple participants, and if all of them are speaking at once, it’s near-impossible for anyone to make out. Now, imagine all that chaos in the ears of someone with hearing loss. They might be able to listen to an individual speaker just fine, but multiple interruptions and shouted suggestions? It’s not just rude – it’s unintelligible.

Make a point of your meetings to speak one at a time. You’ll likely notice that not only will meetings flow faster and be more efficient, but your hearing-impaired colleagues will be able to understand better.

5. Be patient and repeat yourself if necessary.

It’s the fifth time that Brenda has asked for clarification on the name of the new client. You’re frustrated, and you just want to wrap up and get to lunch. You might be tempted to snappily respond or ask her to start taking notes, but before you do, remember that you don’t know what things are like from Brenda’s perspective.

Perhaps she has her speaker volume cranked to full, and she’s leaning in close to the screen to try and read lips, but between the background noise and the fast chatter of the conversation, there’s just no way for her to make out that word you keep repeating softly.

Take a breath, smile, and repeat yourself clearly if necessary. Your team is in this together, and that means working to make sure no one’s left behind, even in the morning conference call.

Worried About Hearing Loss for Yourself or a Loved One?

Hearing loss can make the world a bit harder to navigate, but it’s not the end of the road. From hearing aids to protective earplugs, there are plenty of options for you to work with the hearing you’ve got. Of course, this assumes that you know you need to protect your hearing. If you or a loved one are suffering from hearing loss, going without a hearing assessment just increases the amount of time you’re stuck navigating the world at half volume.

If you’d like more information about arranging a hearing loss test from Sharpe Hearing, give us a call at (705) 792-9494 or send us a message online.

Sharpe Hearing Clinic is registered with the Ministry of Health, Assistive Devices Program.
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