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How video chat can transform relationships for people with hearing loss

Using the phone can be a challenge with hearing loss. But luckily there are more and more technology options that make it easier to communicate with loved ones.

For example, my dad – who has never been one for chatting on the phone – and I recently started to chat via text messages. Then, we discovered video calling. Now, video chat has massively changed our relationship and we talk nearly every week. 

As someone with single-sided hearing loss, video chat has transformed my relationships.

What is video chat?

For anyone unfamiliar with video chat, it’s a way to communicate by seeing each other’s faces via a screen. There are video chat apps for your desktop computer, smart phone, tablet, or you can even hook up a web camera to your TV monitor if it has internet connectivity. 

One of the most popular video chat platforms is Skype – which is what I use.

Skype, which is owned by Microsoft, is an online platform that allows you to make video calls (face time, voice-only calls and instant messaging) to fellow Skype users for free, via the Internet.

Other video call apps include FaceTime (which works if you both have Apple phones) and Google Duo.

Why are video calls good for people with hearing loss?

Video calls are good for people with hearing loss because it allows for face-to-face communication.

With webcams, users can see one another in real time, making it possible to lipread or use sign language.

Arranging a call

Decide on what video chat platform you want to use, then download the app on your phone or computer. (If you’re using a computer, make sure you have a webcam. 

Then, set up your accounts and connect to each other by issuing or accepting a ‘contact request’. Once you’re connected to someone you can see whether or not they are online and you can call them whenever you like.

Another great thing about video chats is that they’re often not restricted to just two people: sometimes my Mum and Dad are at my Dad’s PC and me and my husband are at mine. There’s also the opportunity for my brother to join the call too.

Does video chat have captions?

If you or your loved one has severe hearing loss, face-to-face communication still may not be enough. (Especially if you don’t have a great wifi connection and the signal cuts out.)

Another benefit to some chat platforms is live captions. 

For example, Skype’s online translator helps users communicate during voice and video calls by providing captioning. This video tells the story of how this Skype additional free service came about:

 

Speakers, headsets or assistive technology?

Many of my friends with hearing loss use headsets whilst using video chat, and they find that works best for them. However, because I am deaf in one ear, headsets aren’t ideal for me.

I use a CROS II hearing system, which transmits sound from a CROS device worn behind my deaf ear, to a hearing aid in my other ear. My brain then perceives sound a coming from both left and right. Without the CROS aid, if I were to rely just on sound coming into my hearing aid, then sounds seem much reduced and quieter, meaning that I have to work that much harder to follow speech.

By using speakers on my computer when video chatting, I can maintain the use of my CROS system and benefit from a fuller sound.

For people with hearing loss in both ears, assistive technology such as the ComPilot or ComPilotAir, allow you to stream video calls from your mobile or tablet via Bluetooth directly into your Phonak hearing aids, cutting out all background noise and making communication clearer and easier.

If you have hearing loss, consider video chatting with your friends and family. It could make your relationships a lot stronger. 

What’s your favourite technological breakthrough that’s helped you to communicate more easily with loved ones?

Angie Aspinall on LinkedinAngie Aspinall on Twitter
Angie Aspinall
Phonak hEARo, Angie is a freelance journalist, copywriter, website designer and social media consultant. (www.aspinallink.co.uk) She lives in Scotland with her husband Richard, and their Westie, Tilly. Angie was diagnosed with Otosclerosis in her right ear at the age of 30. In 2011, she suffered sudden profound hearing loss in her left ear. She now uses a Phonak CROS II with a Phonak Audéo V hearing aid. You can follow Angie's international discussion group #HearingLossHour on Twitter @hearinglosshour.

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Online meeting equipment is better than an audio call. It helps me see Facial cues.

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