Video calls and group chats have become integral to how we keep in touch with family and friends. Virtual communication has become incredibly common, especially during this pandemic era where face-to-face interactions have been restricted. It has allowed us to stay connected with loved ones easily. These modes of communicating can also present specific challenges for people with hearing loss which reduces one’s capacity to absorb and process sound. There are various ways video calls and group chats can be made more accessible for people with hearing loss. The following tips can better support hearing and effective communication:
Check & Review Settings
Taking the time prior to video calls and group chats to check your settings can be a useful way to best help you prepare for conversations. This can include ensuring that you have sufficient internet connection so that the signal is not lost during the conversation; trying out different devices to see which you prefer (smartphone, laptop, tablet etc.), and install any virtual communication platforms if necessary. You can also check to see where the lighting is best, which positions are most comfortable, and even explore Bluetooth connection with hearing aids.
Clear visibility is one of the most important ways people with hearing loss can be supported through video calls and group chats. Being visible allows others to access nonverbal expressions, ability to read mouths, and tune into other cues that help them follow the conversation. These strategies are particularly important for people with hearing loss who use them to fill in any gaps and better understand the context of what is being said.
People should be clearly visible on screen and should avoid disappearing from the screen, muting their screen, or having things that obstruct the view. Lighting should also be adjusted to enhance visibility – avoid backlighting which tends to make people less visible. Also, move any distracting objects in view – plants, lamps, books etc. This better helps people see facial expressions, body language, and movements which provides more insight into the conversation.
Multitasking during conversations is common – eating, texting, cooking, cleaning etc. But these simultaneous activities can serve as a distraction from the conversation in a few different ways. These activities can create competing noise for others to process which makes it difficult to hear the conversation. It can also take you away from the screen, making you less visible. Being present and fully engaged in the conversation is important. This helps people with hearing loss concentrate on what is being communicated which requires more effort and attentiveness.
Reduce Background Noise
A significant barrier to effective communication for people with hearing loss is the presence of background noise. Not only is it distracting, but it provides excess noise that competes with the conversation which can be exhausting for the brain to absorb and process. Background noise makes it difficult to hear clearly and identify individual words. It is important to reduce background noise by:
- Using the audio mute button: this is particularly useful for group chats with multiple people. When you are not speaking, you can mute the audio which also cuts the noise from your side.
- Powering off other sources of noise: television, music, household appliances, etc.
This helps with sound quality and allows attention to be focused on the speaker.
Communicate Hearing Needs
For people with hearing loss, remember to communicate your hearing needs. It is important to advocate for the ways in which your hearing can be maximized and best supported. You likely know the specific strategies that work best for you so be sure to share them. This also allows others to participate in creating accessible conditions for a quality conversation. Effective communication is everyone’s responsibility so allow others to contribute their efforts. It is helpful to remind others to be visible, mute their audio when they’re not speaking, speak clearly etc.
Practicing and integrating these tips into how you communicate virtually can create dynamic experiences for everyone involved. Accessibility during video calls and group chats should be a priority and can be achieved by applying simple strategies that maximize hearing!