Uniting as a Hearing Loss Community While Social Distancing

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.

Images of faces and smartphones in boxes

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.

Dr. Chad Ruffin’s COVID-19 and the Deaf/Hard-of Hearing Community

Mass Eye & Ear’s Guide To Hearing Loss Communication Apps

HLAA’s Guide to ADA in the Time of Coronavirus

HLAA’s Guide to Captioned Phones

The Hearing Journal’s Tips to Maintain Hearing Health Care Amid COVID-19

HLAA’s Guide to Communicating with Medical Staff at the Hospital During COVID-19

Hearing Tracker’s Accessibility Strategies for Remote Meetings

Readers, how have you stayed connected to the hearing loss community during this crisis?

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7 thoughts on “Uniting as a Hearing Loss Community While Social Distancing

  1. Zoom meetings are a boon for me; with the addition of a telephone handset my daughter bought at a garage sale for $3, I can hear as well as read lips as never before, (I also use the handset when talking on my Apple phone. It makes all the difference.)

  2. I work for a local authority in the UK and all staff working from home have had Microsoft Teams installed which does have automated captioning. Somebody in my team discovered it by accident when using the video conferencing facility and when they let me know I was so overjoyed. It’s been a total game changer for me and really boosted my spirits. It’s reasonably accurate and only a few seconds behind. The feature is not totally perfect such as when document sharing the captioning seems to disappear. The new discovery has given me hope the captioning technology will just get better and better.

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