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With the shift to remote working and learning, many of us have already come to enjoy the benefits of videoconferencing and group chats. Imagine if you weren’t able to see your loved one’s face on their birthday or to have a group chat with the family when you are separated. Particularly the coming months of social distancing will make video calls and group chats particularly beneficial for our productivity and our sense of connectedness.
However, these forms of communication can be frustrating and even alienating for someone who has hearing loss. Without the ability to easily hear what others are saying, these events can be quite confusing. Particularly when images are shifting rapidly between speakers, the sensory overload can be enough to make you want to give up. Before you do so, try engaging in the following tips and best practices. With these functions and habits in place, you just might find that video calls are rewarding and easy to use during the coming months.
If you have hearing loss, one of the best things you can do during a video call or group chat is to turn on captioning. These services differ from one platform to the next, but most have some version of a text captioning option for your call. Of course, these captions are not perfect, and the errors can be distracting at times. Yet, captioning can be a way to easily fill in the gaps where hearing loss makes you miss a sound.
Some even find that captioned video calls are easier to understand than regular phone calls. If you are interested in using captioning, each service provider has a different option to pursue. For instance, Google Hangouts can be used with Google Live Transcribe, while Zoom requires you to work with a third-party captioning service such as Otter.ai. Once you have live captioning activated, you might be surprised how helpful they can be, even if they also provide funny mistakes sometimes.
Videoconference and Group Chat Tips
Beyond captioning, there are other steps you can take to make your videoconference or group chat the best it can be. Each platform looks slightly different from the next, which can have implications for your ability to read lips.
Many of these platforms have two options: a gallery view that shows each participant side-by-side and a speaker view that only shows the person currently making the sound. Although the latter seems like a good option, it can also shift very abruptly during a lively group conversation, and that abrupt shift makes it difficult for some people to read lips.
Try each of the viewer options to find the style that works best for your needs. Beyond the style you select, there are a few steps you can take to make the experience as good as possible. Try to place the computer in a place close to your Wi-Fi router so that you get the best signal possible. Good lighting is key to illuminating your face, and placing the computer close to your face is a good way to capture as much expression as possible.
Smaller groups tend to be easier, so you might want to make some requests of the other speakers in a large group if it makes sense for you to do so. Asking people to try not to speak at the same time is helpful, and raising a hand is a simple way to “pass the mic” to the other members. Asking other participants to mute their audio when they are not speaking can ensure that the signal doesn’t get clogged. Background sound from a person who is not speaking can even be loud enough to shift the focus to that participant rather than the speaker.
Once you have these tips in practice, you might find that video conference calls are even easier to understand than regular phone calls if you have hearing loss. However, the best thing you can do to participate fully in these conversations is to seek hearing loss treatment. Contact us today to schedule a hearing test!