My Best Hearing Loss Access Experience Ever

It’s rare when a meeting that I attend is set up for people with hearing loss. Organizers will often respond to my requests for captions or save me a seat close to the front, but never has anyone proactively arranged technology to help me hear. Until a few weeks ago.

I was blown away.

Hearing loss access feels so good!

Proactive Planning Made Accessibility Easy

When I arrived, the organizer approached me with a big smile. “We have figured out a way for you to have captions for the meeting,” she said. It was my first time attending a conference hosted by this organization, but they had done their homework, even meeting ahead of time to discuss how to make the session more accessible for me. I get goosebumps thinking about it.

It was a hybrid event, so that made it easier, because automatic speech recognition (ASR) captions are easily activated on Zoom (if organizer’s take the time to do so.) I was present in the room, but was able to access the captions by joining the Zoom meeting via my smartphone. I propped it on the table and enjoyed the captioned transcript in real-time. Others on the Zoom meeting were able to access the captions as well if they chose to do so.

How to Enact Zoom’s Auto-Captions

Zoom does not make it easy for hosts to enable auto-captions. Currently it is a two-step process—one at the account level and then a second at the meeting level. But it is doable and step one usually needs to be done only once. 

ASR Captions are Helpful in Many Situations

The captioning was not perfect—ASR captions rarely are—but it was enough to help me fill in the blanks that I missed. They reduced my listening effort which helped me to enjoy the full session. I was very grateful to have them.

And the captions gave me a great excuse to show everyone in the room how easy providing accessibility can be. Those seated near me were curious about the interesting words on my phone. Many hadn’t known that Zoom provided such a service. Now they do. 

This experience was a win-win-win. It was a win for me because I got the access that I needed. A win for the organization for providing great accessibility. And a win for hearing loss advocacy because others learned how easily they could do the same elsewhere.

If only all meetings were just like this. 

Readers, what is your best hearing loss access experience?

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31 thoughts on “My Best Hearing Loss Access Experience Ever

  1. Dear Shari………I regularly attend Zoom meetings with a group to which I belong…..We are not in the same location…I have been begging the host to turn on captions, in Zoom, for months…she always says that she can’t figure out how to do so…Today, I saw a new feature in Zoom and she used it and..Voila! The captions appeared….there seems to be this new setting (at lower part of mid screen) that says, “Please ask host to turn on captions”…I clicked on it and…within moments, the captions appeared…she must’ve seen the request…pushed some button on the screen and the captions appeared…it was amazing….This is definitely a new, wonderful development.!!! Just sharing because it might help others in future Zoom meetings…

    Thanks for bringing this to everyone’s attention…it’s life-changing.

    Rifka

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Yes, as long as the host has it enabled in the main account settings, it will appear. So glad it is working for you! Thank you for your comment.

  2. Susan Berger – Blogging is one big experiment for me. Will it work? Who knows. I'll link websites that have published my essays and maybe I'll write original posts. My topics will be observations, points of view and life as I see it. I'm still marinating...
    Susan Berger says:

    Terrific, Shari! Hopefully we’ll hear more similar positive stories.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      I hope so too! Thank you for your comment.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      My understanding is that the two step process is still needed, but if you hear otherwise, please let me know.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Let’s hope there are more stories like this ahead! Thank you for your comment.

  3. When I use an ASR app (Otter, Ava, etc.) on my phone it shuts off my hearing aids. When you used them on Zoom did it have any effect of the hearing aids? Do your hearing aids have an app that serves as their remote control. Is there a setting that will prevent the two technologies from interfering with each other?

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Hmm. I have not heard about that one. I would ask your audiologist about it. You may need to adjust one of the settings in your HA pairing.

  4. I was having heart issues and trying to understand what the doctors were saying then You introduced me to Zoom. I’m so forever thankful! Now I can go to the dr and pharmacy and see what they are saying. I’m 72 and this is a life changer for me. God bless you and all you do for the deaf community.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Wonderful news! I am so glad it is working for you. Thank you for your comment.

  5. Not that we wear masks much anymore, but all medical facilities in the Detroit area require masks. I bought 3 nice, reusable masks from Amazon & had them sent to my friend who does machine embroidery. The masks are black. I got 3 so I could swap out & have a clean one every day. My friend used traffic cone orange & printed DEAF with an arrow pointing to my left ear and Hears a little with an arrow pointing to my right ear. I showed my husband & kids. All 3 laughed & said, Man, if anyone misses that, they’re blind. I told them I usually needed to point to my light grey mask with black printing on it all the time. Very few actually read the words. These will stand out.

    As far as zoom, my up line friends must’ve been told to click on their end right away because I only needed to click once, never needed to ask them to do it, it was just there!

    And about Ava, Otter, etc., I’ve never had them cut out either of my aids. I wear a Phonak Audeo 8 and a Cochlear BAHA super power 5. (One ear hears a bit, the other is dead from Acoustic Neuroma surgery. When I talk on the phone, they dim background noise but the never completely mute.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  6. In 2018 I attended a conference of the American Educational Research Association where I was presenting a poster about my research. I signed up to attend eight different presentations during the course of the conference. The organizes contacted me ahead of time to see if I wanted a sign language interpreter to help me follow these sessions. I, of course, replied that it was wonderful that they were offering ASL, but that I am one of the large majority of people with hearing loss who do not sign and need captions. I was grateful that the AERA was willing to provide a live captioner for all eight sessions, but was doubtful that a captioner would be able to do a good job captioning the session on a statistical technique called Hierarchical Linear Modeling. I was quite amazed when the captioner, Josh Edwards, did a perfect job. It turns out that he had captioned an entire course on the subject at Columbia, and as a result had all of the terms in his dictionary. I viewed the captions on an iPad he provided while he sat in the back of the hall. I was the envy of the crowd, many of whom struggled to understand the lecturer who had a very pronounced accent. People sitting near me wanted to know what app I was using. Mirabai Knight who captioned another session was also brilliant.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      That sounds wonderful! Thank you for sharing!

  7. In my recent experience, using Zoom on an iPad, the captions were so tiny I could hardly read them. I can’t imagine how you could read captions on a phone and still experience the live event–but I’m glad it worked for you. At my recent meeting, I had to remind the organizer to turn on the captions (which I did via the internal ‘chat’ function), but she turned them on. They were TINY.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      I used the full transcript viewing option and turned the phone landscape which made the captions much bigger. Hope that helps. Thank you for your comment.

  8. Shari, Was everyone at the table on Zoom and speaking into the mic on their computer? Otherwise, I don’t know how Zoom could pick up what they were saying. I love this idea because I have been invited to join the board at our church but soon they will discontinue their Zoom meetings and resume their in-person meetings so I don’t know how I could participate.

    Kathy

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      All the speakers at the event used a microphone at the front of the room. When questions were asked from the audience, a microphone was used as well so the sound was picked up well by Zoom. Hope that helps.

  9. Susan Berger – Blogging is one big experiment for me. Will it work? Who knows. I'll link websites that have published my essays and maybe I'll write original posts. My topics will be observations, points of view and life as I see it. I'm still marinating...
    Susan Berger says:

    Kathleen, perhaps ask if they’d continue turning on Zoom even when meetings are in person so you can access the captioning? Worth an ask. Or use OTTER or similar app transcriptions. These situations are ridiculous in that we ought not to be preoccupied with figuring out how to communicate and participate Every. Single. Time. Zoom can you hear us now??

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Otter.ai is very effective as well when meetings are not on Zoom. Thanks for sharing your tip.

  10. So in my case each speaker would get up from the table and use the mic at the front of the room? That would be great for presentations but cumbersome for discussions such as our board meetings involve.

    Another question. When I Reply to your message, do I need to enter my email address and name each time?

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Sometimes there are handheld mics that can be passed around the table — like the ones that are used for questions from the audience at a larger event. In your situation, it may be easier for you to use a speech-to-text app on your phone that could pick up sound around the table. I like Otter.ai or Live Transcribe (Android only).

  11. So if I’m understanding correctly: the host has to enable captions in their account first, and then choose whether or not to turn them on for each meeting. Is that correct? I still encounter many hosts who do not seem to understand how to enable the captions in Zoom, and I don’t have enough information to be able to explain to them what they need to do. How do they enable the captions at the account level? How do they do it at the meeting level? Do they need to be enabled at the account level for the viewers to have the screen option to request them?

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      That is correct. The links in this post should help detail the instructions. https://livingwithhearingloss.com/2021/10/26/hey-zoom-its-the-fall-where-is-universal-live-transcript/

  12. Thank you for sharing your experience. I’ve NEVER been able to get CC with Zoom. Couldn’t figure out why. This might explain it, though the hosts tried to fix the situation to no avail. I use a computer, not a phone though.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Currently it is a two-step process—one at the account level and then a second at the meeting level. Directions can be found in this post. https://livingwithhearingloss.com/2021/10/26/hey-zoom-its-the-fall-where-is-universal-live-transcript/

  13. I actually found info on Google…directions for how the host can enable captions…the attendee does not need to necessarily request the captions…..my host kept on not understanding how to set the captions, so I found a request box..I ssent her the request, in the middle of the webinar and…she answered it and…voila! captions appeared. I was so grateful.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      It is a two step process. The host must enable the feature in the main account settings (this needs to happen only once) and then enable the captions in each meeting as well. I am glad it is working for you.

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