COVID-19 has redefined how we interact, and virtual meetings have become the new normal. 

These virtual platforms are convenient and popular as people use them to engage with others. However, something that is often overlooked is how accessible they are for people with hearing loss. Being mindful of hearing loss, making simple changes, and improving hearing accessibility when using virtual platforms can significantly impact. 

Outlined below are ways to improve hearing accessibility. 

Plan ahead. Ask if there are any requests for specific accessibility needs. If possible, record live meetings so that you or others can review them later. Allow attendees to submit questions in advance. Also, provide materials, meeting agendas, and documents in accessible formats before the meeting. 

Use headphones with a microphone. Most computer microphones do not clearly pick-up a user’s voice, whereas a mic integrated into headphones or the cord will be closer to the speaker’s voice. A flexible boom-mic provides great sound clarity and is positioned so that it is always near the voice. Also, noise-cancelling headphones may make it easier to hear and concentrate during a meeting if you are in a busy environment.

Reduce background noise & optimize the listening environment. Whether your meeting is at home or work, background noise can distract and make communication more challenging. Muting all attendees except those who are speaking can be helpful. Mute your phone/messaging apps to avoid distractions as well. Make sure you are in a well-lit room with your face clearly visible. 

Use captions. Captions for video and real-time translation are an important way to improve hearing access during virtual meetings. Captions are useful for everyone, not just those with hearing loss.

Improve communication skills. In a virtual meeting environment, it may be difficult to recognize if someone has a hearing loss. Some simple changes can make a big difference. For example, avoid covering your mouth and have the speaker’s face visible to enable speech reading. Make sure that only one person talks at a time during the meeting. Provide notes and/or transcripts after the meeting. Ask people to state their names every time they speak, so captioners and attendees know who is speaking. Also, speak clearly and at a normal pace and volume. 

Virtual meetings and calls are going to be with us for some time. Ensuring they are accessible will make them more inclusive for those with hearing loss, resulting in increased productivity and enjoyment.  

Submitted by: Curt Culford, M.Cl.Sc. Aud, Reg. CASLPO Audiologist and Owner, Culford Family Hearing

102-10 Keith Ave., Collingwood  |  (705) 293-HEAR
www.culfordfamilyhearing.ca  |  facebook.com/culfordfamilyhearing