Virtual communication has become the norm this year! Video calls and group chats across a variety of platforms are major ways we communicate. They’ve helped us stay connected with family and friends in the midst of a global pandemic. These technologies have also allowed us to manage both our personal and professional lives with greater ease.
Though video calls, group chats, and other modes of virtual communication are designed to be convenient and easy, they present unique challenges for people who experience hearing loss. Hearing loss reduces a person’s ability to absorb and process sound which makes communication more challenging. When on video calls and group chats, it is important to practice ways to maximize hearing and support effective communication for everyone involved!
A few tips to create accessible virtual communication spaces include the following:
1. Be Visible
Being visible is one of the most important ways you can engage in effective communication. This may seem obvious but people often disappear from the screen, mute themselves, or can have things obstructing another person’s view. Visibility is so important because it can significantly help a person with hearing loss follow the conversation. They can access nonverbal cues – facial expressions, body language, movements etc. that provide greater context for the conversation. Additionally, people with hearing loss may read mouths as a strategy to identify words.
You want to make sure you are as clearly visible as possible, a few ways to do this are to adjust lighting – it should not be too dark, avoid backlighting because that can make your face less visible, there should be lighting in front of you, move objects that could be blocking you (plants, lamps etc.).
2. Avoid Multitasking
It is common to do other things while talking to others – text, cook, clean etc. But it is important to reduce as many distractions as you can. Engaging in other activities while on a video call can make you less visible and can also make what you are saying unclear. People with hearing loss need to be able to concentrate as much as possible. Hearing and following a conversation takes more energy for a person with impaired hearing. So being able to concentrate and fully be present during the conversation is really helpful.
3. Use Audio Mute Button
Another factor that can contribute to distractions is background noise. Background noise can make it difficult to hear and process what the speaker is saying. It is important to eliminate unnecessary noise – turn television, music, and household appliances off. In addition to turning sources of noise off, you should use the mute button when you are not speaking which also eliminates background noise. This is especially helpful when there are multiple people on the video call/group chat. Multiple people also means several backgrounds which can be overwhelming.
4. Check Settings
Prior to video calls, check all necessary settings to make sure everything is set up in ways to maximize your hearing. You want to make sure you have a strong internet connection so that video calls are not disrupted or the signal is lost. Find the device that works best for you (smartphone, desktop, laptop etc.) and the platform(s) you use to video call. You also want to make sure that you are positioned comfortably!
5. Communicate Hearing Needs
It is important to advocate for your hearing needs! Remember that other people want to include you in the conversation and would be willing to make adjustments to ensure effective communication. You know what strategies work best for your hearing needs so sharing this information with others can be really useful. This can include reminding people to speak one at a time, to be visible, project their voice, mute their audio when they are not speaking etc. Sharing these strategies allows people to participate in creating an environment that maximizes your hearing.
In addition to these tips, if you use hearing aids, you can sync them to the device you are using. Hearing aids use Bluetooth technology to wirelessly connect to other electronic devices. This means that you can stream the audio from your smartphone or laptop directly to your hearing aids. This enhances the quality and clarity of the sound, making it easier to hear!
If you’ve been struggling with hearing loss, we’re here to help! Contact us today to learn more about our comprehensive hearing health services.