Tips for Virtual Communication from People with Hearing Loss

Tips for Virtual Communication from People with Hearing Loss

In hearing loss by Laurie Duffy, M.S.

Do you work from home? The concept in the US used to be a bit rarer. Now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, working from home is common. Jobs that were previously never thought of as tasks performed from home are now commonly done remotely. This changes office and workplace culture as well as expands people’s flexibility of where they can live and where they can travel to. However, working from home does present some added challenges, which may take some time to get used to. For instance, online video conferencing and virtual communication tools can take some adjustment, especially for those with hearing loss. Working with hearing loss has never been easy but now with virtual communication, a whole new set of challenges arise. Thankfully, this technology is rapidly developing based on the demand. This means advancements to help hearing-impaired people excel in the virtual workspace.

Learning to Communicate Online from the Hearing Impaired Community 

Long hours on the computer can start to wear on mood. Where a workday used to consist of being able to leave the house, walk around and even socialize, now often eight hours a day are spent virtually video conferencing. Named after one of the most popular videos conferencing apps, “Zoom fatigue” is emblematic of what can occur during a long day of virtual meetings – communication over the computer starts to feel draining instead of invigorating. To better understand how virtual socialization is taking a toll on the workplace, technology developers are often looking towards the hearing-impaired community for tools to improve ease of communication. Often hearing-impaired users have been using tools to better communicate online and in-person for years and this takes more time and effort to understand what is being said. Here are some techniques used by those with hearing loss that are clues for the rest of us to better understand how to excel for longer durations while working online.

Take Time to Pause

Hearing-impaired people require extra time to hear what is being said. Often when speaking make sure to pause after sentences or when switching topics. This gives everyone in a meeting time to reflect on what has been said before you move on to the next topic. In digital spaces, don’t be afraid to let longer pauses into the conversation. 

Talk to Text

The beauty of online workspaces is that they offer options for hearing impaired people which are harder to obtain in person. This includes taking advantage of talk-to-text features which transcribe speech into closed captioning. People who struggle to hear can rely on the text for added clarification from what they’ve heard in a meeting.

Highlight the Speaker

Another benefit of video conference platforms is formatting them so the current speaker is highlighted when speaking. This allows you to have a clear view of the speaker as well as their facial expression and maybe even hand gestures. These are valuable tools for understanding with limited audio.

Use Headphones

One way to enhance sound is to rely on headphones. These can send audio from your computer straight to your ears. This can eliminate background noise and help you focus on their meeting. You may even enjoy active noise canceling features available on many earbuds, which neutralizes background noise so you are not tempted to turn up the volume to block out competing ambient sounds. This can be a protective measure for your hearing as headphones if listening to at dangerous volumes can cause permanent hearing loss.

Make Sure You Have a Clear View

It can be difficult to hear over video chat, especially if there is any interference on either end. To compensate for missing sound information, those with hearing loss often rely on subtle cues in the body and face to help bring context to what is said. To help others hear you, make sure your camera is framed to see more of you. Make sure you are well lit and the camera can see your arms and shoulders if possible. This provides more visual cues to add in the intent of what you are trying to convey.

Schedule a Hearing Exam

If you are struggling with hearing loss and you haven’t addressed it yet, this is a great time. Aside from these tips, hearing aids can be programmed to amplify your specific loss. They can even hook up to your computer wirelessly to stream audio directly to your ears. To find out what hearing aids could do to enhance your virtual experience, don’t delay in scheduling a hearing exam with us today.