For persons with hearing loss, large group events like business meetings are often quite challenging and the key to "plugging in" to routine business activities is all about preparation. Here are some basic business meeting preparation recommendations for persons with hearing loss:
Get it in print. Ask the event organizer/leader for advance copies of speaker notes, agenda, handouts and other printed matter associated with the event and the topics under discussion. This allows you to follow along in case you miss verbal instructions.
Assistive Listening Devices. Ask if FM broadcasting for assistive devices will be available. Many hearing aid manufacturers offer wireless connectivity, enabling hearing aid wearers to pick up FM and Bluetooth wireless directly through their hearing aids.
Personal FM systems, often referred to as assistive listening devices, consist of a small, FM transmitter microphone that is used by the speaker or placed in the center of the restaurant table and a receiver worn by you. The receiver transmits sound directly to hearing aids either by direct audio input or by a looped cord around your neck.
Personal FM systems can also be used without hearing aids. The sound is transmitted to via personal headphones versus through hearing aids. Many public facilities, such as churches, concert halls and movie theaters offer these for persons with hearing loss.
So you are thinking cost. Public facilities typically offer use of their FM systems for free.
Be proactive and contact the group organizer of a conference to request an FM system be available. If not, discuss the possibility of your employer purchasing one for you.
Visit meeting site ahead of time. Once you arrive at the event site, visit the hall where the main events will take place. Here's what to look for:
• Carpeting absorbs ambient noise like scraping chairs.
• Glass windows also bounce sound. Drapes cut down on echo.
• Plaster and flat, hard surfaces reflect sound.
Choose your seat and claim it. If you can claim a chair early, pick one that's five or six rows back from the dais. You want to be close enough to take advantage of visual cues by watching the speakers' lips but not so close that you have an amplified speaker pumping 100dB sound waves through your hearing aid. Ouch!
What if the meeting is on the phone? More and more business meetings are occurring via conference calls in order to cut cost in a tough economy. Today's sophisticated digital hearing aids offer solutions for land lines and cell phones. Want to utilize the wireless Bluetooth connection on your phone? There's a device for that. Want to reduce whistling? There's a technology for that. With wireless technology, today's hearing aids keep you plugged in and connected on the phone without having to turn up the speaker volume.
Healthy relationships come down to communication, and it is no different for business relationships and meetings.
When meeting with colleagues it is always best to be forward about your hearing loss. It may be embarrassing at first to discuss with them, but over time you will be happy you did.
Discuss with them your hearing loss and how it affects you in meetings. And best yet share with them communication techniques they can do to help you in meetings, such as making eye contact while speaking and only person speak at a time.
There is nothing embarrassing about having a hearing loss. Your colleagues will appreciate your honesty and you will be surprised at how many will modify their behavior for you.
By combining good ‘ol simple communication with some of the latest in technology, business meetings will be a success.