Patient Ben Willis discusses hearing loss during the pandemic

Ben, a lawyer from Bristol and a loyal patient at Imperial Hearing, has a profound hearing loss and has been trialling various online platforms in order to successfully hold meetings while working from home, without his hearing assistant physically by his side. He shared his lockdown journey with Imperial Hearing and talked about the surprising benefits of working remotely when suffering from hearing loss and what he has learned in the process:

“The pandemic made quite a dramatic difference to me. I am a lawyer and have been working in an open plan environment with a team of people for many years and have always had numerous large meetings of different sizes and conference calls, often involving lots of people. Under ‘normal’ working circumstances, I have a hearing assistant who types for me during phone calls and meetings when in the office.

Lockdown meant that we immediately started working from home and began organising meetings on the telephone or more often, by video call. It took a while to figure out the variety of platforms that were available and how my hearing assistant could join me on these calls remotely, connecting to a separate screen on which she could type for me.  However, we quickly got the hang of it and found a number of different ways of doing it – including direct to a smart phone screen.

The big difference was that meetings had to be much more disciplined with only one person speaking at a time. That made a huge difference as I was able to concentrate on one person rather than trying to keep up with a group conversation. We made it easier by having two screens together, one for my hearing assistant to type on and one for the call, this made it much less noticeable for others and a much smoother experience than face to face meetings. Talking to colleagues by video (FaceTime, with a good signal is a favourite) was also really easy as I have a good picture and streaming of sound direct to my hearing aids. This made for a good lip-reading environment which meant one to one meetings were better as well.

The main challenge was finding a platform which clients were familiar with and could easily use. Luckily technology in this area is very good and the biggest breakthrough came when exploring all of the options.

Google Meet has closed captions and has been brilliant for video or voice calls, the voice to text captions are really very accurate. I have even been doing many unsupported conference calls which has been a complete revelation for me. Zoom now also offer captions on the “paid for” service and can make them available on request for the free platform – or you can connect it up to other speech to text services. Zoom is clearly a leader and once their captions service is established, will no doubt be a leader and once set up, Google Meet is great.

The main downside, which was the same for everyone, was the lack of social contact – but I think the future is as positive as it has been, certainly for me and the advances in technology. Now we are back in the office we can combine all of the things that we have learnt to do with technology and integrate it with the social and organisational benefits of an office environment.”

Simon Wendland, director and audiologist at Imperial Hearing’s Bristol centre said:

“The impact of the pandemic on our patients has been significant. The lack of social interaction and disruption to daily lives is unsettling and requires some people who are hard of hearing to make numerous adjustments in order to continue working. It is so encouraging to learn that technology has really enabled and supported Ben during this time, the ability to stream sound from video calls directly into the hearing aid has helped patients enormously.”