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Even before COVID-19, virtual meetings were already becoming normal. However, this year, keeping ourselves and those around us safe has changed how we work and socialize in a way that may never go back. Work meetings, doctor’s appointments, therapy sessions and family gatherings have gone virtual. For many with transportation and mobility issues this may be a blessing as it is now possible to see a medical professional, friends and family without having to get on a car or plane. Instead, you can conveniently connect and attend events from the comfort of your home. However, for those with hearing issues, virtual meetings can be a challenge. Here are a few suggestions to make your virtual meetings easier and more accessible even when you have hearing loss.
Use Technology to your Advantage
The beauty of virtual technology is that it is meant to make your life easier. If you are a hearing aid user, then you can enjoy some of the many features which are compatible with your Smartphone or laptop. Many hearing aids come equipped with Bluetooth technology so you can stream the audio from your media device directly to your ears.
Even if you do use hearing aids or they are not equipped with this feature, you can benefit greatly from using headphones or earbuds. Ambient noise can get in the way of what people are saying on a computer but sending the audio signal to your ears avoids this issue. Just be sure to keep the volume of your headphones bellow 60% of the total volume, to avoid causing further hearing damage.
Make Time for Introductions
Before you start the official part of your meeting, make sure you give people some time to get acquainted. This not only allows for people to show up at the meeting but gives people to make sure their assistive listening technology is adjusted and ready to listen clearly.
Talk to Text
Another benefit of using virtual technology is that many video conferencing apps come with features which transcribes the audio in real time. For those with hearing loss this can become an essential function, as they can read along and keep up with the conversation. In many cases, for people with severe hearing loss, it may be easier to socialize virtually in larger groups because of this feature. Apps like Live Transcribe, Otter Voice Meeting Notes, Speech Notes, Voice Notebook and e-Dictate record and take meeting notes in real time, so you can focus on the meeting and stay calm knowing you can revisit key points later.
Record Your Meeting
Another benefit of using virtual technology is that many video conferencing apps allow you to record the meeting. The moderator of the meeting usually has the ability to do this. Contact the moderator prior to the meeting to make sure they send you a copy of the recording. This way you can ensure that you have the ability to revisit anything you may have missed due to distraction or hearing issues.
Disclosure of Hearing Loss
This applies to real life as much as virtual. When you are open about your hearing loss you have the ability to ask for accommodations from the other meeting participants and employers, to help you participate to your ideal potential. You may find it easier to follow conversation when you can see people’s face and can read their lips. It may be easier if you co-workers slow down their speech just a little to make it easier to follow. When you are open and direct with your friends and co-workers you have a chance to advocate and optimize your success.
Nothing can be more frustrating than distracting background noise and side chats during virtual meetings. Suggest to the other participants to mute their mic when they are not speaking, in order to cut down on feedback and distraction. Many video conferencing apps have features allowing participants to virtually raise your hand in order to avoid multiple speakers talking over each other.
Explore your hearing options
Hearing loss often develops slowly to the point where many don’t even realize there is an issue. If you have found yourself struggling to hear this year, during your virtual meetings at work or for connection, take this as a sign that you may actually have hearing loss. The good news is, that once you know you have an issue with hearing, you can finally effectively treat it. Make an appointment to have your hearing tested now and get the most out hearing and virtual technology.