Thanks to the recent global pandemic, working from home is becoming increasingly common. With this increase, video conferences have to happen to keep coworkers working together effectively.
Unfortunately, video conference calls may not be so easy for everyone. Video conferencing with hearing loss can prove quite troublesome as some people may sound muffled, quiet, or participants may try to talk over each other.
In the US alone, hearing loss affects nearly 48 million people. Yet, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America, only 1 out of 5 people who benefit from hearing aids end up using them. That means 80% of those with hearing loss in the US do not have any treatment.
Those individuals with hearing loss and without hearing aids may find video conferencing to be inconvenient and uncomfortable. To help, here’s a list of videoconferencing tips for people with hearing loss.
Before improving communication on video, finding the best video conferencing apps and software for people with hearing loss may help the most.
The Best App to Use for Video Conferences
One of the most popular video-calling apps out there is Zoom. Businesses, organizations, schools, families, and even friends have taken advantage of this tool to meet their video conferencing needs. Zoom is free to use for many, but a paid version also has enhanced features.
However, most opt for the free version as it meets the needs of most businesses and individuals. In addition, meetings are easy to set up, and the whole user experience is simple and easy.
One of the most remarkable features of Zoom is the option to incorporate captioning. This allows individuals with hearing loss to see the words that are being spoken. Zoom features various methods of bringing captions into its software.
Within Zoom, a participant can directly type in closed captioning, or it can be integrated using other third-party captioning technology. Set up is easy, and Zoom provides tutorials and documentation to get captioning setup.
Video Conferencing Tips
1. Be Proactive in Letting People Know Your Condition
First and foremost, make sure your condition is known by your coworkers, fellow students, manager, or whoever you’re on a call with. When people have prior knowledge, they can take steps themselves to ensure you hear them. For example, people may be more patient with letting others talk to not speak over others. In addition, other participants may ensure they speak clearly and slowly into the microphone without mumbling.
2. Ensure You Have a Strong Internet Connection
With a poor internet connection, you will highly diminish your video quality. Sounds may not match up to the video. It sounds themselves get distorted. Sometimes, you can even miss sounds entirely. Ensuring a solid internet connection will give you the best shot at having a successful video conference.
3. Ensure All Participants Have Their Video on
Sometimes, in video meetings, participants will disable the video and only speak into the microphone. This can make it extra tricky for individuals with hearing loss. As the individual with a condition or the manager is aware of someone, ensure everyone keeps their video on. Doing so can help the individual understand people speaking better—they can read lips and pick up other visible signs.
4. Ensure Each Participant is Using a Microphone
In some video calls, participants may speak directly into the microphone on their computers. This leads to hard to hear sounds, muffled voices, and too much background noise.
Improving the audio quality of video conferences is key to helping someone with hearing loss. If everyone uses a microphone or a headset, the sound quality will be much better for all involved. It should significantly help the individual with hearing loss.
5. Find a Service That Allows Closed Captioning
As mentioned previously, some software tools allow closed captioning, whether built-in, participant-directed, or via a third-party tool. Using this closed captioning can help individuals with severe hearing loss participate without a problem.
6. Create an Agenda
To help the flow of conversation and help someone with hearing loss, make a schedule to follow. This allows the individual with a hearing condition to know the topic at all points in the video conference.
7. Only Allow One Person to Speak
As the director of a video conference, make sure that only one person speaks at a time. Individuals with hearing loss have trouble separating multiple voices at a time. By getting rid of that obstacle, individuals with hearing loss will have a much easier time at a video conference.
8. Ask People to Mute Mics When Not Speaking
If people know they will not be speaking for some time, have them mute their microphone. Even if only one person is speaking, background noise could come into the call from the other’s microphones. If everyone who is not speaking mutes their microphone, the background noise will be significantly decreased.
9. Keep Groups Small
It’s not always easy to stop people from speaking over each other. If this is the case with your team, try limiting the group size. If you have a hearing condition yourself, let people know the groups must be under a certain size for you to participate in the meeting effectively.
10. Try Using Other Communication Tools
Using props and tools in video conferences can help accommodate those with hearing loss. For example, using a whiteboard, chat room, or other tools can help deliver messages more clearly than only speaking can.
11. Ask/Provide for a Written Summary
If you have a hearing condition, you can ask the leader/manager of the call to direct a participant to keep a written log of important points. That way, at the end of the meeting, you can receive a written summary of the key talking points.
Similarly, if you’re the manager and someone in your team has a hearing condition, make sure there is a written summary whether they ask or not. Again, the individual may not feel comfortable asking for the outline, so they will feel more included if you willingly provide it.