As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, remote work has become the norm. More people than ever are now connecting with clients and colleagues from their home office. And rather than hosting face to face meetings, we’ve increasingly made the shift to platforms like Zoom.
Unfortunately, that last one presents a bit of a challenge for the hearing-impaired. For one, there’s the matter of finding a headset that you can wear comfortably and without interference. Just as scarves, hats, and other winter clothing can cause interference, so too can a poorly-fitting headset.
Ordinarily, it would be a simple matter of going out and trying on several options until you found one that works. Unfortunately, given that we’re in the midst of COVID-19, that isn’t exactly an option. Generally speaking, however, the higher your headset quality, the better.
Headsets manufactured by brands such as Sennheiser and Bose tend to prioritize not just sound quality, but also comfort. That means they’re adjustable, and likely have enough space that you can wear them without too much trouble over your hearing aid.
Alternatively, depending on your brand of hearing aid, you might be able to connect it directly to your PC via Bluetooth. Many newer hearing devices, like Oticon hearing aids, support precisely this type of connectivity. There is also a range of hearing aid attachments and accessories which make dialing-in to an office meeting as simple as accepting the invite.
Technology aside, you’ll also want to speak with your clients and colleagues before any meetings. Go over a few ways they can make things more accessible for you, and make it easier to participate. These might include:
- Requiring video for all participants. This will allow you to focus on visual cues as well as audio cues, ensuring that even if you’re straining to hear someone speak, you can still pick up the general thread of what they’re saying.
- Ensure anyone who’s not speaking has their microphone muted. This isn’t solely because less noise helps you focus better with hearing impairment. This is also because no one wants to hear a barking dog or a screaming child when they’re trying to talk business.
- Coach participants on the importance of keeping things concise, and of waiting their turn before interjecting.
- Encourage screen sharing where necessary.
- Consider asking if you can record the meeting, or have the organizer record it for you. That way, if there’s anything you missed, you can go back and listen to it later. You might even take things a step further and assign someone to transcribe things for you.
No one can really say for sure how much longer the coronavirus pandemic is going to last. What we do know, at the very least, is that the shift to distributed work is here to stay. That even once it’s safe to return to the office, remote workforces will, in large part, remain the norm.
The good news is that with a little preparation and the right gear, this doesn’t have to be a bad thing for the hearing impaired —it can, in fact, be a great advantage.
About the Author: Pauline Dinnauer is the VP of Audiological Care at Connect Hearing, which provides industry-leading hearing loss, hearing testing, and hearing aid consultation across the US.