This allows for flexibility in managing work-life balance and having a choice of where to live. As a result, many virtual meetings are conducted. However, hearing in virtual meetings brings unique challenges, especially for those living with hearing loss.
Some meeting configurations can be more challenging than others for listening. An example is when I am with my team and we speak to another team, virtually. Multiple side conversations may occur, which becomes distracting and makes it difficult to know what conversation to follow.
Other obstacles in virtual meetings include poor sound and video qualities. Moreover, the participants may not speak into the microphone or they have thick accents, making them difficult to understand. Unfortunately, I often end up sitting quietly, not contributing to the discussions. Then, I have to rely on a colleague for a summary when the meeting is over.
It took time to find my advocacy voice to allow me to hear better in virtual meetings. I did not know what solutions would work for me, or where to start. Also, I did not want to bring attention to myself. But then I thought, how do I show my value to the team if I cannot perform to the best of my ability?
Even though I am an audiologist myself, I am not always aware of all the solutions available. It helps to consult with my peers for suggestions and try different setups.
“How do I show my value to the team if I cannot perform to the best of my ability?”
For one-on-one or small meetings, I plug a Phonak Roger microphone into the computer to stream sound to both ears. I also ask for everyone to turn their camera on to better see and hear. If there is information I cannot understand, I ask for it to be typed in the chat box.
For large meetings, I use multiple Roger microphones that can be paired in a MultiTalker Network. My team member wears a Roger microphone, then another Roger microphone is plugged into the computer, so I can hear my colleagues virtually.
In this setup, I can stream the sound from multiple Roger microphones to my hearing instruments. This allows for me to hear my team in the room with me, as well as my colleagues – at the same time.
Additionally, I ask the organizer to send a summary to all participants after the meeting. This is beneficial for normal hearing people as well, as they do not always hear everything.
An area where I am looking to improve in listening is when online presentations are presented live. Many online presentations do not have a clear video of the presenter speaking and/or captioning. Even when streaming the sound to both ears with a Roger microphone, it is still difficult to understand. This is an area I will continue to research and trial different solutions.
Overall, it is a trial and error process. Everyone’s listening needs and lifestyles are unique. It is best to consult with your audiologist and work together to find what may work for you. Most people are understanding and are happy to make communication adjustments. In fact, many normal hearing individuals also benefit from these modifications. In the end, it is more important to have every opportunity as my normal hearing peers have to succeed in the workplace.
What tips and tricks do you have to improve communication in the workplace?