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Hear and Connect: Zoom with captions helps me connect and feel less isolated

By Carolyn Stern

Assistant Director of Outreach and Strategic Initiatives

Carolyn Stern, manager of Hearing Health Days for NYC seniors

Carolyn Stern, Asst. Dir. of Outreach and Strategic Initiatives

Now that I am more aware of captioning options, I am experiencing new ways of connecting with loved ones, friends and my community while doing our part in staying home. All of this Zooming, which may be getting out of hand at times, is a real boon for me. Videoconferencing through the many platforms available, combined with my two cochlear implants, auditory listening therapy at CHC, and captioning solutions, is making some social situations I would typically either avoid, dread or struggle through, less stress-inducing and more stress-relieving and enjoyable for a change. Have you found this to be the case for you, too?

Some of the activities I participated in varied and  included a moms’ night out, a family call and a live theater event.

Moms’ night out

For the mom’s night out, we connected over Zoom, hung out and played an online game of “Cards Against Humanity.”  I heard most of the joking and gossip and felt really tuned in when they started sharing, one at a time, some real heartfelt updates about their families, work, potential furloughs and worry about Covid-19. Typically, catching all of this chatter while physically in a group this large (we were eight all together) just simply would not be possible. For captioning, I set up

Web Captioner on my desktop computer in a window below the Zoom window with the attached speakers cranked up. At times, I gave the Otter app a try on my smartphone and sometimes it worked better.

Family Zoom call

Another activity was a four-way family Zoom call with my mother and two sisters, which we had never done before. This was a nice change from our on-going group text of periodic updates. We stayed on for a very long time and I rarely had to ask for any repeats. I connected to the Zoom session with my iPhone and could hear them with my ComPilot streamer paired to my iPhone. Then, for captions, I used

Google Live Transcribe  on my Android phone. To set this up, I connected to the call through the Zoom app on my Android phone and made sure to join without audio or camera on. This enabled the Android phone to pick up the audio directly from the Zoom meeting.

Magic show

The final activity was a live magic show on Zoom sponsored by a local organization. While watching on my iPhone on the couch with my son, I realized I wasn’t hearing the magician’s voice well enough to understand the tricks. Rather than get discouraged, I set up my Android phone with Google Live Transcribe activated, held it just below my iPhone set on speaker and could follow along well. Typically, I avoid theater unless I arrange, well in advance, front orchestra tickets (paying extra, of course), captions and/or a listening device.

Auditory therapy

In these activities and others, the automatic captioning tools could not transcribe accurately spontaneous banter and cross talk. Those were frustrating moments, and, once in a while, I would advocate for repeats or clarifications. Other times, I would remember to leverage the listening skills developed in weekly auditory therapy sessions at CHC since getting my second implant eighteen months ago. Through different exercises led by a trained speech therapist, my brain has learned to decipher a wide range of sounds in noise without visual cues such as picking up the movements of a speaker’s lips or speech reading. I have continued these sessions remotely at home with Elizabeth Ying, the Co-Director of CHC’s Shelley and Steven Einhorn Audiology and Communication Centers.

Less social isolation

For years, as I dealt with a progressive loss starting in early childhood, the social isolation I experienced was quite taxing on me both physically and emotionally.  Fortunately, my life has greatly improved with the recent addition of cochlear implants. And, now, during this crisis, in some situations where I may have felt even more isolated because of not hearing well, I don’t have to feel so alone.

I am deeply saddened by all the difficulties and losses due to the pandemic. I hope by shedding light on some of the ways technology has helped me, maybe the isolation others are experiencing can be lessened.

More videoconferencing tips

This post is just one in a series from CHC to help you Hear and Connect better through communication strategies and technology solutions that you can use at home. Click below to check out these related posts:

Contact Us

Remember, CHC is here for you. If you are having difficulty hearing well with any aspect of your remote work set-up, or are looking for support in any way, please contact your CHC audiologist.

If you prefer, you can call our main number in New York at 917-305-7700 or in Ft. Lauderdale at 954-601-1930. Or click here to email us and we’ll direct your message to the appropriate clinician.

If you’re not currently a CHC client, but need assistance, we’re happy to help. Also consider reaching out to your hearing aid manufacturer’s help line which is also readily available to aid as well.

8 views1 comment

1 comentario

Anna Kena
Anna Kena
3 days ago

This is a great article highlighting how technology can help reduce social isolation, especially for those with hearing challenges. The author's experience with using captioning and assistive tech for Zoom calls is really inspiring. I wonder if the author has also explored taking the rice purity test - I heard that can be a fun way to connect with others virtually while staying entertained. Either way, it's great to see solutions that make remote interactions more inclusive and accessible.

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