Audiologist Doing A Hearing Test

Tips for a Successful Virtual Family Reunion

Videoconferencing has taken the world by storm this year. Although it does not make it possible to hug one another or play sports as a family, virtual platforms help us reconnect as best we can. 

If you are planning a virtual family gathering this year, some of your family members might be up to the challenge already. Those whose jobs have shifted online will already be familiar with the interface, the challenges it poses, and the strategies that will make it easier to engage. 

However, some of your family members might be totally new to a video call. Without experience, this platform can be quite daunting, particularly when all the family are assembled in place and listening for your response. 

If you have a family member who is new to video conferencing, particularly someone who has hearing loss or another need for accommodation, consider the following tips that will make the process enjoyable for all involved. 


Set the Stage

Virtual meetings can sometimes feel like mini studio sets, complete with costuming, makeup, sets, and props. Anyone who has used these settings regularly will be familiar with how to make the best use of audio and video to communicate clearly. 

Those who are new to the medium will need to set the stage before the first attempt. Ample lighting is key to making facial expressions and mouth movements visible, and these features can be quite helpful for a person with hearing loss. 

Making the audio loud and clear might require the use of earbuds or a headset, and an external microphone can help to eliminate background noise. Setting the stage is also setting you up for success on the big day. 


Practice Makes it Easy

Your family member who is new to videoconferencing might have some anxiety about the first encounter with the platform. If something goes wrong, then it might feel as if the entire holiday has been taken away. For this reason, a practice session can go a long way. 

Take some time to get to know how the interface works after you have set the stage. Muting the audio when you are not talking helps everyone hear more clearly. Gesturing before chiming into the conversation helps to avoid cross-talk between members, further avoiding that annoying moment when the audio drops out altogether. Many people like to use the “gallery” setting if possible, because this setting allows you to see a small version of each family member at once. 

Others prefer the “speaker” view, because it enlarges the video of the person speaking, making it easy to read their expressions and face movements. When you practice working with the videoconference interface, you will find your own tips and tricks to make it comfortable to use. Even one practice session prior to the family reunion can relieve the anxiety that faces a newcomer. 


Do You Hear What I Hear?

For a person with hearing loss, the videoconference setting can be challenging. With people jumping in and out of the conversation, audio can cut out from time to time, making it difficult to follow what is going on. A few tips can help you accommodate those with hearing loss. 

Try to use good lighting and look directly at the computer to make it possible to read expressions and mouth movements. Signaling when you want to speak can help reduce crosstalk that makes the audio drop out. Some platforms offer real-time captioning that provides text at the bottom of the screen accompanying the speaker. 

If your chosen platform does not have this function, you can download a third-party app or even set up an additional program on a smartphone or tablet to provide captioning along with the audio. 

Although these strategies can help, the best thing you can do to assist a person with hearing loss is to encourage treatment with a hearing health professional. With hearing aids in place, the video conference will be much easier to understand, and when we return to shared gatherings in person, the benefits will continue. Many new hearing aid models are equipped with Bluetooth compatibility which allows the wearer to directly stream audio to their aids.

Virtual family reunions can be challenging, but parties and social events can be, as well. The first step is to pursue a hearing test to diagnose hearing needs, so don’t hesitate to make the appointment!