COVID-19 has brought many inconveniences and frustrations to our daily lives, but there have also been some positive side effects — like bringing the hearing loss community closer together. On Saturday, March 28, 2020, more than 80 members of the hearing loss community met on a virtual Zoom call. The group discussed ideas for coping with the burden of social isolation, described our favorite technology hacks for communicating, and shared our stories of illness and recovery. We provided one another the support, understanding and camaraderie that we all are seeking at this time of social distancing.
Our Virtual Hearing Loss Meeting Via Zoom
I was proud to kick off what we hope to be a series of these events by presenting my Hearing Loss COVID-19 Guide at this virtual meeting. If you missed the event, you can still view a copy of my slides or listen to a 30-minute captioned video replay of my presentation. The captions were auto-generated by PowerPoint as I spoke. Many of us on the call were impressed with the speed and accuracy. The auto-caption feature is easy to activate and free to use. I hope it will become the norm for all presentations.
I am not an expert on pandemics or medical details of COVID-19, so I focused my talk on actionable suggestions that members of the hearing loss community can use to stay as active, engaged and productive as possible during this time of forced isolation.
The main topics included:
- Establishing a daily routine
- Reaching out to loved ones and friends
- Using your time wisely by learning something new
- Incorporating exercise and movement into your day
- Preparing and updating your emergency plan
- Creating a medical communication kit
- Managing your hearing health remotely
Join us on Saturday April 11 at 2pm EDT for the next virtual meeting. The speaker will be Dr. Kevin Franck, the Director of Audiology for Massachusetts Eye & Ear and a National Board Member of HLAA. Kevin will provide an audiologist’s perspective on caring for your hearing health while social distancing and will highlight some of his favorite hearing loss apps. To register for this meeting, click here.
Accessible Meetings To Become the Norm
People with hearing loss are used to combatting social isolation at times, so we may have some tips to share with our hearing peers in this new age of mandated social distancing. Communicating with technology is also one of our specialties. We have a lot to offer, as well as a lot to learn about using accessibility features in virtual meetings.
Many workplaces are quickly learning the value of captioning as faulty audio from work-at-home offices causes even those with typical hearing to struggle to hear in virtual meetings. Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts and other platforms provide different levels of accessibility with auto-captioning standard on some, but only available on business plans on others. The quality of the auto-captioning also varies by platform.
The good news is that all types of communication platforms are scrambling to improve their captioning offerings as they become critical for the general population. Perhaps these features will become the new standard on the other side of this crisis.
Other COVID-19 Hearing Loss Resources
At the end of my presentation, I shared a list of resources and web pages with useful information for people with hearing loss related to COVID-19. I recreate that list below for easier access. Please feel free to suggest other resources in the comments.
Readers, how have you stayed connected to the hearing loss community during this crisis?