User Stories

Zooming In On The New Normal

What a fascinating piece by Manyu Jiang (quoted on the BBC no less) on the fatigue being suffered by people using Zoom to stay in touch during social distancing because of the Covid-19 crisis.

“Who’d have thought?” is maybe your first thought. “Welcome to my world!” may be your initial reaction if you have any form of hearing loss.

People, it seems, are losing their unguarded enthusiasm for the new nirvana of video calls. Why so? Why is it so tiring? The reasons would be so very familiar to you. It feels unnatural and having to pay attention consumes too much energy, it would seem. More than that it’s nerve wracking and stressful having to process non-verbal cues, like facial expressions as well as tone and pitch of the voice as well as body language.
This is my ‘everyday’, half-hearing a sentence, or worse a phrase, before the person speaking to me stops, waiting expectingly for my reply. I’m faced with responding; is it “yes”, “no”, or as usual just “hmmm”. And I think to myself ‘I do hope I got that right, usually followed by the thought “I wonder how they would feel if they could only hear half the conversation, like me”.

Well now they can it seems, hear half of the conversation, with Zoom!

If these things are the old normal for people with good hearing, what is the new normal for the many people with hearing loss? Well all of the above-plus really. It’s the nuance of Zoom. It’s trying to hear individuals when more than one person is speaking. It’s the multiple images that are too small to be able to lip read, not helped by poor lighting.

The way forward for all, for the hearing and those with hearing loss, is to think before you take part. If it’s a formal meeting, it should be managed as such through a good ‘chair’ and not a pub-chat. People should think about how they appear so that others can more easily lip-read or interpret gestures. Everyone would talk slowly and clearly, although Zoom doesn’t do subtitles.

Maybe that’s the normal, changing what we do and what we expect of others if we are going to be truly inclusive. I guess video calling will be the centrepiece of the new normal, if so we all need to get more comfortable with how we look to others (says the person whose face was made for poorly pixelated pictures).

Just as well I have discovered HearClear, the video calling app created specifically for the smartphone, that has live subtitles (closed captions). It’s not 100% perfect but it certainly “fills in the gaps” so I can join the conversation.

<Editor> – This was sent to us by one of our recent customers. Although we’ve edited the format, the content is exactly as was sent to us