Technology in Teletherapy For Kids with Hearing Loss
Please welcome my guest blogger, Lindsay from Listen with Lindsay!
How can kids with hearing loss use technology to help them participate in teletherapy? We can break this down into the 3 areas that we always want to modify when trying to improve communication- the speaker (therapist/teacher), the listener (student with hearing loss who of course is speaking too!), and the environment.
Use a headset! Just like with an FM/DM system in the classroom, a headset helps reduce the problems created by noise, distance, and reverberation. When you use the microphone on your computer, as soon as you start moving around it affects your sound quality, but with a headset mic you can stay more consistent. Even iPhone headphones will work.
Use a good webcam and the best internet speed possible so there’s no lag time or choppiness in your audio.
Stacy is the queen of teletherapy so she is the first one that I thought of when I had a question about the best headset/webcam/internet tips. She outlined them all in her How to Set Up Your Teletherapy Home Office blog post.
Choose videos with captions and make sure they are on when you are playing them.
Depending on the reading level of the child you may want to consider using live auto-captions during therapy.
Repeat after me: It is noisy at home.
Use Remote Microphone Technology (Roger, MiniMic, etc.) or bluetooth streaming to the hearing aids or cochlear implants gives the best sound quality. If you have access to these- use them! If the parent is listening you can use an audio cable splitter so they can plug in a set of headphones. If the parent doesn’t have a splitter they can call into the video chat on another device and mute their own microphone and just use it for listening. Check out my E-Learning With Hearing Loss blog post for information about how to connect most hearing technology.
If they don’t have access to their Remote Microphone Technology, using an external speaker for their computer or phone can help make sound louder and more clear than built-in computer speakers.
Ideally both the therapist and the student’s family should work on limiting background noise. For example, turn off TVs, close doors and windows, move away from parents on conference calls, and have someone else watch siblings.
Reduce reverberation by using a headset microphone and adding soft materials to absorb sounds, such as area rugs, tapestries, curtains, a blanket over your chair, a table cloth on your desk, etc.
Good lighting is key- children with hearing loss need those visual cues so make sure you have good lighting.
I LOVED this YouTube video about How to Look Good on Video Calls for Zoom and FaceTime. Angie gives great examples about how to set up angles and lighting plus spills the tea about how to turn on the beauty filter on Zoom (why isn’t this automatically on btw??). I started using an empty diaper box as a laptop stand when video chatting after watching and the angle is so much better.
I made a free PDF version of these Tips for E-Learning with Hearing Loss that you can download and share with parents, teachers, and other therapists. Be sure to sign up for my Hearing Happy Hour Newsletter to get more handy tips and PDFs like Bullying Prevention in Kids With Hearing Loss.
One last word on technology… as I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, everyone has a different comfort level with technology. Some people have the latest iPhone while others still rock a flip phone. People who are deaf and hard of hearing NEED technology (not necessarily hearing technology- think captions, phone relay systems, e-mail, texting, etc) to have greater access to the world around them. Empowering and encouraging them that they are competent with technology and they are able to experiment with it to find the best solutions for their challenges is going to lead to functional skills that will help them achieve their future goals. Push your DHH kids out of their comfort zone and set your expectations high!
Lindsay Cockburn is a pediatric audiologist in Los Angeles, CA. She started her pediatric audiology blog Listen With Lindsay to make information about hearing, technology, and education more accessible to everyone. You can follow her on Instagram @ListenWithLindsay for more tips.