Telecommute, remote work, work-from-home: Whatever you call it, setting up a home office presents unique challenges when you've got hearing loss. Especially if it's something you're having to do unexpectedly, such as during the pandemic. You may not only be learning to adapt to new ways of working, you may find that technology isn't as adaptive as you would like. Add a heavy dose of stress and social isolation, and it can even feel overwhelming.
"If you're new to working virtually, you may not think about things like setting your microphone to mute when you're not speaking, but tips like these are really helpful," said Mandy Mroz, AuD, president of Healthy Hearing. "My number one tip to help remote workers with hearing loss is to make sure everyone on the team has a headset with a microphone. This improves the sound quality for all listeners."
To help you—and to help inform coworkers who don't have hearing loss—the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has put together a list of tips and this video, which we have adapted into this infographic:
How to make virtual meetings easier to hear
- Introduce everyone, if you can. This gives people with hearing loss time to adjust their sound and get oriented.
- Use video. "The availability of visual cues for people with hearing loss, and even those without hearing loss, aids in understanding conversation," states ASHA's tipsheet.
- Check lighting. During video, it is best to have lighting in front of you rather than behind you. Back lighting can make it hard for others to see your face.
- Wear a headset with a microphone. "This produces a better quality signal for all listeners," Mroz said. "The downside? They cost more, but we find they're worth the investment."
- Don't block your mouth. Keep hands, hair and clothing away from your mouth and face. Project when speaking so that listeners have the best opportunity to hear and understand.
- Use the mute button when not speaking. This reduces unwanted background noise.
- Wait your turn to speak. "Don’t interrupt others, as it is harder to shift listening from one speaker to the next in a virtual meeting," ASHA points out.
- Record your meeting. This is useful for people who missed either portions or all of the call. For people with hearing loss, they can review it later at a slower pace, if needed.
- Utilize captioning tools. Connect-hear.com has put together an overview on videoconferencing and captioning.
Virtual meetings when you have hearing loss
- Sync hearing aids. "If you wear hearing aids, ask your audiologist if there is a connectivity option that will allow your hearing aids to connect via Bluetooth directly to the device you use for virtual meetings," ASHA states.
- Try noise-canceling headphones. These can reduce unwanted background noise and make it easier to hear the speaker.
- Lastly, advocate for yourself. "Good communication is a universal right for all. Be sure to talk to your employer and advocate for yourself if you are not able to hear or understand. If you are struggling to hear, there may be others who are struggling, as well. You don’t want to miss important assignments, information, updates, or knowledge necessary for your participation during and after the meeting," ASHA explains.
The impact of hearing loss on communication
Many common communication problems can be improved if a person wears properly adjusted hearing aids. If you or a loved one needs a hearing test, you can find can find trusted hearing specialists and audiologists near you with our directory. Keep in mind that many have adjusted their hours or availability during the COVID-19 pandemic.