Hearing Loss Advocacy: Captions Are Our Ramps

Last week’s post was an open letter to video conferencing companies like Zoom and Google, asking them to provide free auto captioning for people with hearing loss during this time of physical distancing. In most cases, auto captioning is available on these platforms, but it is hidden behind a paywall for premium paid accounts. There was so much support from readers, I started a petition on Change.org to capture the response.

The results have been tremendous. As of this writing, 8,000 people have signed the petition, and the number continues to grow. I have begun sharing the petition with the companies. If you have not signed already, will you help me to show more support by signing and sharing the petition? Together we can make change happen!

SIGN OUR PETITION ON CHANGE.ORG 

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Hearing Loss Access: Zoom & Google, Make Free Captions Available Now

People with hearing loss have trouble communicating in many situations leading to isolation and loneliness during normal times. Today, amid COVID-19, things are even tougher. In-person conversation has moved online, leaving many people with hearing loss few options for connecting with family and friends, especially seniors who are most at risk for developing virus complications.

Free automatic speech recognition (ASR) captioning for people with hearing loss on video conference platforms like Zoom and Google could make all the difference. Today I pen an open letter to these companies. Please share my words and add your own. Together, we can bring about the change we need to remain engaged and productive in today’s challenging times.

Computer displaying a video conference call.

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My Hearing Loss Frown: I’m Not Angry, I’m Just Concentrating

Do people sometimes think you are angry when you are not? Or that your facial expression during conversation implies a negative affect? This happens to me at times, especially in difficult listening situations like meetings with many people or at gatherings with a lot of background noise.

I call it my hearing loss frown. I am not angry or upset, but I am concentrating so hard to hear that the work shows on my face. This can be a problem for people with hearing loss because this focus is often misinterpreted as anger, frustration or annoyance, which can lead to difficulties in personal relationships and in the workplace.

portrait of an angry woman

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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

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Maintaining Your Hearing Health Amid COVID-19

The world has changed a lot in the past few weeks. Physical distancing due to COVID-19 has closed restaurants, theaters, and many other “non-essential” businesses, prioritizing health care and access to food and medicines above all else. This has caused many of us to self-isolate, keeping our distance for our safety and that of others, to help flatten the curve of infections. For people with hearing loss, maintaining our hearing health and having access to working hearing aids and other communication devices are critical as we adapt to various ongoing—and often stressful—changes.

Despite this challenging time, stay on top of your hearing health with these tips.

Woman wearing face mask

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