An unintended consequence of work-from-home and social distancing orders has been the impact these requirements have on people with hearing loss. In many communities, we all — including those with hearing impairments — are now working, going to school, and spending the majority of free time confined at home, with limited access to people and tools that are essential for communication.
For those who have adapted to reading lips, who use contextual cues usually reserved for in-person contact, or are reliant on the support network of their peers, this new 'normal' can be a challenge.
When using video conferencing tools especially, frozen screens and crashes can be navigated in audio-only mode for the hearing capable, but not for those who are hearing challenged. Add in people talking over each other, and it can become a garbled mess for the listener.
So what can be done to help build an inclusive environment for business, school and home communication?
- Hearing impaired individuals should be proactive in letting others know of the challenges they are experiencing with video conferencing. Inform others that you are hearing impaired and offer helpful hints when possible to help them communicate more effectively with you.
- Experiment with a variety of communication tools. With more conversations moving to phone and video calls, and in-person chats taking place with medical masks being worn, you may need additional tools for communication. Even old- fashioned pen and paper or whiteboards may be an option to aid in communication!
- Closed-captioning apps are also an option. There are a number on the market available for either Apple or Android platforms. Here are just a few of the options: Live Transcribe, Otter Voice Meeting Notes, Speech Notes, Voice Notebook and e-Dictate.
- Use a video conferencing platform that offers instant or live closed captioning. This feature can be enabled for several of the most commonly used systems.
- Call on anyone who hasn’t participated in a while to ensure they have a chance to participate and are engaged. This is helpful in work, classroom or home environments!
- Consider amplified telephones and analog captioned phones. Depending on the state you live in, you may be eligible for a free or reduced-cost telecommunications equipment.
- Provide written follow up when appropriate.
- For hearing impaired students, there are a number of resources available at successforkidswithhearingloss.com
Coronavirus is a reminder that time and life are precious and can change in a split second. Communication for social, business and educational purposes is paramount now, more than ever.
Prioritise your hearing health by staying in touch with your hearing healthcare professional. With flexibility and creativity, we can embrace technology to remain connected, while protecting ourselves and others. Make a promise to yourself and others to keep your wellbeing and that of others flourishing in these challenging times.