Working and socializing look much different than they did a few months ago. The COVID-19 pandemic has moved many personal and professional interactions to virtual meeting platforms.
For people with hearing loss, this shift can be problematic. Zoom, Skype, Facetime, Microsoft Teams and other platforms help keep people in touch while remaining socially distant, but these applications can make effective communication difficult. People who have trouble hearing often rely on nonverbal cues to fill in the blanks during a conversation. Body language, gestures, voice pitch and facial expressions aren’t as noticeable during virtual encounters. Therefore, participants must concentrate harder to follow the conversation.
Perhaps that’s why most people say they prefer face-to-face communication at work. But with more and more conversations moving online, it’s vital to find ways to make these platforms work for everyone. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to improve your hearing experience during virtual meetings.
Putting Technology to Work
Use technology to improve the experience. If you use wireless hearing aids, connect them to the meeting audio using an app or compatible accessory. The audio will be streamed directly to your hearing aids.
You might also consider adding a web-based speech recognition tool like WebCaptioner, LiveTranscribe or Otter to your virtual meeting. These tools provide on-screen captioning of the conversation within seconds. You may need to use a separate window to view the dialog so you can also participate in the virtual meeting. Know that distance, noise and reverberations from the speaker’s microphone can affect the quality of the transcription of their voice.
Realize that wireless connections can be unreliable during virtual meetings. Audio may cut out or the screen may freeze. Instead of Wi-Fi, connect to the internet using an Ethernet connection. If that’s not possible, try moving closer to your wireless internet router for improved connectivity.
Along with technical enhancements, hosting a well-organized meeting can improve the hearing experience for participants. First, establish clearly defined rules for participation. Start by identifying a chairperson, a note taker and someone to manage who is speaking.
Here are some other ways to get the most out of your virtual meetings:
- Only one person at a time should have the floor. Leave your camera and microphone muted until you’re recognized by the meeting chair or participation manager.
- Keep meetings as small as possible. Two to four people is ideal. If a larger meeting is necessary, everyone but the speaker should mute their audio so you can focus on one person at a time.
- Make sure the person speaking is well lit and the camera is steady. Pin the speaker to your screen so your focus isn’t pulled by other images of meeting participants.
If you continue to struggle to hear during virtual meetings, contact us to help you make that connection and much more!