Working from home has quickly become the new norm. Many office jobs have had to resort to allowing their workers to stay at home while connecting over the internet. There are benefits to this, of course – you can work in your pajamas, and save money by not commuting!
However, some people might be struggling a bit more than others – those who require a lot of social interaction, for example, or those who enjoy time outside. And one particular group of people who may be struggling are those with hearing loss.
Hearing better in virtual meetings
If you have hearing loss yourself, you might find yourself struggling to keep up with virtual meetings. For example, if you’re on a conference call, you might find yourself getting lost amidst side conversations and multiple people talking at once.
Another issue may be the poor sound/video quality. It’s easy to see how substandard sound quality might lead to missing out on the discussion at hand, but poor video quality can have a similar effect.
After all, when we speak, the shape of our mouths gives a lot of context to the words that we’re saying. If you can’t make out someone’s face throughout the blurry compressed pixels, it can be hard to know what they’re saying, even if the sound quality doesn’t drop off.
How do we address these issues, then? Well, the obvious suggestion that you can implement by yourself is to do your best to optimize your internet connection. Sit near your router, and make sure there aren’t other things taking up the bandwidth (like streaming or downloads.)
If you’re a hearing aid user, you may also be able to connect your hearing aids to your computer via Bluetooth. Obviously we don’t know which model you use, but most modern hearing aids have a Bluetooth feature, so look into it!
As for concessions you can request from others, here are some ideas:
- One-to-one meetings, so you can avoid multiple people speaking at once
- In group meetings, an agenda can be distributed before hand so that people are less likely to divert the course of conversation
- Important points/minutes can be written down during the meeting and distributed after, so that nothing crucial is missed
How to accommodate employees with hearing loss
If you’re an employer of someone who is experiencing hearing loss, you might be concerned with how to best accommodate them. There are many ways you could go about this, so here are some to get you started:
- Implement some kind of closed captioning system
- CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) captioning, a real-time way of interpreting and transcribing what people are saying. If you’ve ever watched the news with captions, this is what you’re seeing
- Again, important points/minutes can be written down during the meeting and distributed after, so that nothing crucial is missed
- Record the meeting so it can be viewed afterwards with less of a time restraint
- Use visual guides where you can to facilitate engagement outside of conversation
This is a weird, unprecedented time for everyone. There are going to be growing pains in all facets of life as we adapt to these conditions. Concessions will be made, and we’ll slowly learn more about how to optimize our working-from-home experience.