Finished | Adult hearing loss

VC2 Improving Video-Conferencing Communication for People with Hearing Loss

For people with hearing loss, trying to communicate using a video conferencing platform such as zoom can be challenging. Last year, we carried out a study that found that people with hearing loss communicate less effectively or expend more effort communicating via zoom in comparison to people with normal hearing. We also found that whilst hearing aids can significantly improve the experience for individuals with hearing loss when using zoom, they did not restore speech understanding and comprehension to the same level as normal hearing. 

We set out to evaluate which of the following listening set-ups is the most effective at enhancing speech understanding, reducing listening effort and increasing user satisfaction over video conferencing platforms; 

1) Bluetooth streaming direct to the participant’s hearing aids  

2) With and without headphones using a sound enhancing software 

3) and a high-quality speaker using a sound enhancing software 

Sound enhancing software is software that gives the user control over a variety of sound characteristics such as frequency (pitch), loudness and the dynamic range of speech and music (i.e. the difference between the loudest and the softest moments). The sound enhancing software used in this study was SonicCloud’s Frisson, which is designed to enhance speech understanding and listening enjoyment. Listening profiles can be adjusted to meet the end users hearing abilities and listening preferences at any given moment or over time. 

Listeners experienced the most benefit using different listening set-ups. In other words, no one set-up provided the best experience for everyone. However, listeners were very good at choosing the set-up that worked best for them and in which they experienced the best speech understanding and lowest listening effort. Those set-ups were most commonly Bluetooth streaming directly to hearing aids and using headphones with sound enhancing software. Therefore, people with hearing loss should try these listening set-ups when looking to improve their speech understanding and listening effort during video conferencing for a better experience.

The findings of this study provide clear guidance and direction for people with hearing loss and highlights that having access to Bluetooth streaming and headphones with sound enhancing software is important for people with hearing loss. For workplaces it is recommended to provide one, or both of these listening set-ups for their employees to improve their communication experience in an age where video conferencing is increasing in popularity.  

The outcomes of this project have significant implications for Hearing Health. By demonstrating that individuals with hearing loss can effectively use video conferencing with the right listening set-ups, we are paving the way for improved communication and quality of life for these individuals. 

As for future research, this project opens up new avenues for exploring other technologies and strategies that could further enhance video conferencing for individuals with hearing loss. 

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