Data gathered through the Ideas for Ears survey questionnaire makes it clear that people with hearing loss are being significantly impacted by coronavirus and the measures to tackle it.
They are experiencing greater burden and strain when it comes to staying in touch with family and friends, using important services and support, and navigating workplace communication.
How to make it easier
It is the view of Ideas for Ears that the following will make things substantially easier:
Awareness of hearing & deafness
The on-going battle to improve awareness of hearing and deafness must continue. We need to achieve better understanding and delivery of communication inclusion and hearing access across public services, workplaces and society generally.
Masks that are safe & communication-friendly
Masks that provide a safe and effective barrier to coronvairus and that have a see-through panel so the mouth can be seen are now appearing on the market. Awareness and use of such masks would have an immediate and significant impact on ease of communication and levels of anxiety.
Use of digital tools
There must be improved awareness and use of speech recognition apps to deliver live subtitling in face-to-face situations. There must also be more investment made in developing these tools so they do a better, faster and and more reliable job.
The requirement of these tools when used to support live conversations is far more demanding than when they are used for dictation or to create captions that will later be added to a video.
To support development, there must be more testing and comparison studies to identify relative efficacy, functionality and preferred features. Ideas for Ears is already working on this.
Of course, key to uptake and success of these tools is how easy-to-use and affordable they are: they must be universally accessible.
Adoption of subtitling solutions
Just as soon as speech recognition apps reach required quality, we need to see their rapid roll-out to health and care services, retailers and beyond. There are many reasons to favour the appearance of screens that are always on and ‘as standard’ display subtitles of spoken conversation at customer interaction points.
More accessible phone & video calls
The transition to greater reliance on phone and video calls by health, care and befriender services must be matched by a growth in the accessibility of these calls. It needs to be easier and less stressful for people with hearing loss to enjoy a spoken conversation. View our video resources on how to identify problems and how to fix them.
This requires staff and volunteers delivering those calls to do so in hearing-friendly ways. They need to be equipped with awareness, speaking and communication skills that make it as easy as possible to hear and follow what they are saying.
When these skills are in place, the relevant services need to advertise this fact. People need to be aware that helplines will be staffed by people accomplished in communicating with those who have hearing loss – it will give encouragement and confidence to use them.
Alongside all of this, of course, is the need to continue to remind service providers of their obligation to offer alternative contact options, beyond phone or video calls.
Subtitling on video calls
The quality and ease-of-use of video subtitling tools needs to be further improved. As with subtitling tools for face-to-face conversation, subtitling tools for live audio and video calls are variable in performance.
Rigorous testing and development is required to really push these tools forward and make them universally helpful. Ideas for Ears is already involved in work relating to this.
Knowledge & confidence of people with hearing loss
The numbers of people with hearing loss who are able and confident to take up benefits offered by digital solutions needs to grow. We know this is not an easy one. Daily life with hearing loss can be tiring and despiriting, especially right now. Exploring solutions might be the sensible thing to do but it can feel like another layer of slog that simply feels too much.
To help solve that one, we’ve launched Talk It Through, a one-to-one service that provides highly personalised help and support so exploring options becomes much easier and less daunting.
What are your thoughts?
Please let us know using the comment box below or by sending us an email.