Hearing loss: What do event planners need to know?

I’m planning an event soon. It’s a relatively small affair with 20 people, but at least one potential participant has hearing loss. I want her to be and feel included and to be able to participate fully. I bet many event organizers – from professional event planners to amateurs like myself – would like to know what they can do to make sure their event is successful for people with hearing loss (and everyone). For example, when families plan weddings, birthday celebrations, family reunions, do they think about family members who may have hearing loss?

Here are some of my initial questions:
1. Many such events are held in hotel conference rooms or church halls. What should I ask the venue about?
2. What technology do I need to supply?
3. What adaptations or technology might the person with hearing loss have? What should I ask them?
4. What non-tech things can I and the other participants do to include the person with hearing loss? For example, how do I ensure they can participate in group discussions comfortably?
5. What do I need to know and haven’t thought to ask?
6. Are there any resources or websites out there that can help me?

As a person with severe to profound loss, this is how I survive. Large room settings are challenging. Because hearing loss varies, being able to read what is spoken is best. If CART is not available, I use speech-to-text from my phone. I've found the app Live Transcribe to be the best. I bought an Android, even though I have an iPhone, just for this purpose. It will not be used for phone calls so does not incur any monthly fees. You can get an unlocked Android for $40. If the venue doesn't have Wi-Fi, I use my iPhone as a hotspot. In areas that do not have cellular coverage, I use the Otter app on my iPhone, which does not require Wi-Fi. In one of my support groups, I have elderly members that do not have cell phones. In this case, amplification is the way to go when none of the above is an option. If the room has an induction loop system installed, then people with telecoils in their hearing aids will hear the audio. For people without telecoils, the venue should have loop receivers to pick up the signal. The person given the receiver should also have the option of getting headphones or a neckloop to get the audio from the receiver to their ears. Unfortunately, most people outside of HLAA do not know about loops and telecoils. If the venue has pass-around microphones, the remote mic would best be placed near the PA system speaker. If pass-around mics are not used, then the remote mic is best given to the person speaking. If questions come from the audience, then the person speaking MUST repeat those questions. Most people with hearing loss do not have other Hearing Assistive Technology (HAT) besides their hearing aids. Hopefully, the venue has some type of FM or digital system so that the person with hearing loss would be given a receiver. Hopefully, headphones or a neckloop would be provided to get the audio from the receiver to their ears. Now, for breakout sessions, this is even more challenging. Speech-to-text doesn't work good enough when there's a lot of background conversation unless the phone is used as a pass-around mic. I would give my phone to the person speaking and then get it back to make sure I could read what was said. Another option is to use a personal amplifier with a microphone that could be extended. The mic could be passed to person speaking. Both of these options are cumbersome so the best option is to move the breakout group to a quieter area and have them meet back after a set time. Hope I covered everything.
Tony in Michigan

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I am only deaf on one side so my suggestions might not be appropriate for those with more total hearing losses, but here they are.

Seek out venues that invest in a high quality PA system. When I could hear better most PA systems and microphones were terrible. Now with limited hearing I notice that far more!

Test, test, test the room! Ask if folks can hear more than just the 'hello, can you hear me?' intro.

Low tech — hand out copies of the materials so the hard of hearing can follow along rather than giving them out at the end. I know many speakers prefer to give out their notes at the end of presentations so folks look and listen to them more intently, but if you can't hear well that is self-defeating. Also I'd add it is important to have any videos presented to have captioning on them.

I am old so I am WAY over being sensitive to people knowing I have hearing loss, so I appreciate when a speaker acknowledges that there are or might be hearing impaired folks in the audience so they are doing X, Y, or Z to help those folks. Plus tell folks it is ok to let the speaker know if they wander outside the mic's range, drop their voice volume, etc.

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@tonyinmi

As a person with severe to profound loss, this is how I survive. Large room settings are challenging. Because hearing loss varies, being able to read what is spoken is best. If CART is not available, I use speech-to-text from my phone. I've found the app Live Transcribe to be the best. I bought an Android, even though I have an iPhone, just for this purpose. It will not be used for phone calls so does not incur any monthly fees. You can get an unlocked Android for $40. If the venue doesn't have Wi-Fi, I use my iPhone as a hotspot. In areas that do not have cellular coverage, I use the Otter app on my iPhone, which does not require Wi-Fi. In one of my support groups, I have elderly members that do not have cell phones. In this case, amplification is the way to go when none of the above is an option. If the room has an induction loop system installed, then people with telecoils in their hearing aids will hear the audio. For people without telecoils, the venue should have loop receivers to pick up the signal. The person given the receiver should also have the option of getting headphones or a neckloop to get the audio from the receiver to their ears. Unfortunately, most people outside of HLAA do not know about loops and telecoils. If the venue has pass-around microphones, the remote mic would best be placed near the PA system speaker. If pass-around mics are not used, then the remote mic is best given to the person speaking. If questions come from the audience, then the person speaking MUST repeat those questions. Most people with hearing loss do not have other Hearing Assistive Technology (HAT) besides their hearing aids. Hopefully, the venue has some type of FM or digital system so that the person with hearing loss would be given a receiver. Hopefully, headphones or a neckloop would be provided to get the audio from the receiver to their ears. Now, for breakout sessions, this is even more challenging. Speech-to-text doesn't work good enough when there's a lot of background conversation unless the phone is used as a pass-around mic. I would give my phone to the person speaking and then get it back to make sure I could read what was said. Another option is to use a personal amplifier with a microphone that could be extended. The mic could be passed to person speaking. Both of these options are cumbersome so the best option is to move the breakout group to a quieter area and have them meet back after a set time. Hope I covered everything.
Tony in Michigan

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Thank you for the excellent coverage of speech to text options. I have tried several but my I-phone doesn't do well with any so far. I am presenting a talk to older (70s+) group and asked them to bring their smartphones to the talk. You have an excellent assessment of that age group who may not have any phone much less a smartphone. I will have to rethink my idea of getting captions of my talk to the group. The venue has no equipment and in a room that is not built for technology.

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Scott, very helpful suggestions for me as I prepare for my talk to groups of 70s+. I believe handing out copies of the outline is my best way to handle the delivery in a no technology room.

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Thanks so much toniinmi!!! You've given me food for thought before meeting with an audiologist in a couple of weeks. I live on the Oregon coast, where hills prevent cell reception in many areas, even what we laughingly refer to as "downtown." While tourist motels/hotels have WiFi for guests, most meeting rooms do not. I'm definitely in the "old" group you refer to (77), and I only had a flip phone until my partner in running a volunteer river surveying program showed me, in a steep wilderness canyon, how well smartphone GPS works (better than even really good GPS units). I have a IPhone 6 now, but my serious downturn in hearing due to Meniere's happened just after I got the phone, so I've been concentrating on getting my aid reset to work with the phone and learning to use both the phone and an Android tablet I bought in order to utilize Live Transcribe. The idea that anyone lives where there's zero cell reception just doesn't get through to young techs in Portland or Salem. We live in the spruce forest only a couple of blocks east of that big antenna (ocean), but we have zero cell reception at home, rely on cable and a modem for phone, 'net, TV. I need to be able to participate in both small group and large group meetings that cover technical stuff, like water rights, stream flows, fish genetics. Because Meniere's not only reduces hearing but adds distortion and recruitment, on a bad day I'm pretty clueless during any meeting.

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@tonyinmi

As a person with severe to profound loss, this is how I survive. Large room settings are challenging. Because hearing loss varies, being able to read what is spoken is best. If CART is not available, I use speech-to-text from my phone. I've found the app Live Transcribe to be the best. I bought an Android, even though I have an iPhone, just for this purpose. It will not be used for phone calls so does not incur any monthly fees. You can get an unlocked Android for $40. If the venue doesn't have Wi-Fi, I use my iPhone as a hotspot. In areas that do not have cellular coverage, I use the Otter app on my iPhone, which does not require Wi-Fi. In one of my support groups, I have elderly members that do not have cell phones. In this case, amplification is the way to go when none of the above is an option. If the room has an induction loop system installed, then people with telecoils in their hearing aids will hear the audio. For people without telecoils, the venue should have loop receivers to pick up the signal. The person given the receiver should also have the option of getting headphones or a neckloop to get the audio from the receiver to their ears. Unfortunately, most people outside of HLAA do not know about loops and telecoils. If the venue has pass-around microphones, the remote mic would best be placed near the PA system speaker. If pass-around mics are not used, then the remote mic is best given to the person speaking. If questions come from the audience, then the person speaking MUST repeat those questions. Most people with hearing loss do not have other Hearing Assistive Technology (HAT) besides their hearing aids. Hopefully, the venue has some type of FM or digital system so that the person with hearing loss would be given a receiver. Hopefully, headphones or a neckloop would be provided to get the audio from the receiver to their ears. Now, for breakout sessions, this is even more challenging. Speech-to-text doesn't work good enough when there's a lot of background conversation unless the phone is used as a pass-around mic. I would give my phone to the person speaking and then get it back to make sure I could read what was said. Another option is to use a personal amplifier with a microphone that could be extended. The mic could be passed to person speaking. Both of these options are cumbersome so the best option is to move the breakout group to a quieter area and have them meet back after a set time. Hope I covered everything.
Tony in Michigan

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@tonyinmi
Thanks for all the tech info. I understand it all but I’m sure many people don’t.
A member of our HLAA chapter saved the day for us by using their hotspot to connect to the web / CART. How do you get it for iPhone and is it expensive? Will it work in areas that are remote like the mountains?
Thanks Judy

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@joyces

Thanks so much toniinmi!!! You've given me food for thought before meeting with an audiologist in a couple of weeks. I live on the Oregon coast, where hills prevent cell reception in many areas, even what we laughingly refer to as "downtown." While tourist motels/hotels have WiFi for guests, most meeting rooms do not. I'm definitely in the "old" group you refer to (77), and I only had a flip phone until my partner in running a volunteer river surveying program showed me, in a steep wilderness canyon, how well smartphone GPS works (better than even really good GPS units). I have a IPhone 6 now, but my serious downturn in hearing due to Meniere's happened just after I got the phone, so I've been concentrating on getting my aid reset to work with the phone and learning to use both the phone and an Android tablet I bought in order to utilize Live Transcribe. The idea that anyone lives where there's zero cell reception just doesn't get through to young techs in Portland or Salem. We live in the spruce forest only a couple of blocks east of that big antenna (ocean), but we have zero cell reception at home, rely on cable and a modem for phone, 'net, TV. I need to be able to participate in both small group and large group meetings that cover technical stuff, like water rights, stream flows, fish genetics. Because Meniere's not only reduces hearing but adds distortion and recruitment, on a bad day I'm pretty clueless during any meeting.

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@joyces
I’ve found that the Phonak Roger Select works for restaurants and meetings. If you don’t have Phonak hearing aids you can use a MyLink with your aids in the Tcoil program. The new Phonak Marvel aids link up to the mics via Bluetooth so you don’t need a neckloop.

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@judysmayo

@tonyinmi
Thanks for all the tech info. I understand it all but I’m sure many people don’t.
A member of our HLAA chapter saved the day for us by using their hotspot to connect to the web / CART. How do you get it for iPhone and is it expensive? Will it work in areas that are remote like the mountains?
Thanks Judy

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Judysmayo, let me know if I'm not answering your question properly. If you are referring to the Live Transcribe app, then it is not available for the iPhone. The app is still in beta test so maybe when it is officially released, then the iPhone may be an option. If you do not have an Android, then the Otter app works best, in my opinion. Otter works on both Android and iPhone plus it does not require Wi-Fi. Both apps are free but Otter will only give 600 minutes free per month, which is sufficient. The app shows the amount of free time left. One downsize to Otter is that it does not let you change the font size within the app. The workaround is to go into the phone Settings and change the font size. It affects ALL the apps though. Hopefully, a future release of Otter will include changing the font so other apps are not affected. I've never tried using either app in a highly remote area but I'm guessing Otter will still work.
There are other apps that can do speech-to-text so don't limit yourself to just these two. Experiment when you hear of an app that helps people with hearing loss. Also, if you have good experiences, please share on this forum.
Tony Ferack, Hearing Technology Resource Specialist
Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA)
President, HLAA-MI Board of Trustees
SE Michigan Walk4Hearing Treasurer
President, Western Wayne County Chapter
tony.ferack@hearingloss-mi.org
Gallaudet University Certified Peer Mentor for Hearing Loss

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@tonyinmi

Judysmayo, let me know if I'm not answering your question properly. If you are referring to the Live Transcribe app, then it is not available for the iPhone. The app is still in beta test so maybe when it is officially released, then the iPhone may be an option. If you do not have an Android, then the Otter app works best, in my opinion. Otter works on both Android and iPhone plus it does not require Wi-Fi. Both apps are free but Otter will only give 600 minutes free per month, which is sufficient. The app shows the amount of free time left. One downsize to Otter is that it does not let you change the font size within the app. The workaround is to go into the phone Settings and change the font size. It affects ALL the apps though. Hopefully, a future release of Otter will include changing the font so other apps are not affected. I've never tried using either app in a highly remote area but I'm guessing Otter will still work.
There are other apps that can do speech-to-text so don't limit yourself to just these two. Experiment when you hear of an app that helps people with hearing loss. Also, if you have good experiences, please share on this forum.
Tony Ferack, Hearing Technology Resource Specialist
Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA)
President, HLAA-MI Board of Trustees
SE Michigan Walk4Hearing Treasurer
President, Western Wayne County Chapter
tony.ferack@hearingloss-mi.org
Gallaudet University Certified Peer Mentor for Hearing Loss

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For the iPhone hotspot, arrange to get it from your provider, such as a ATT or Verizon, then go into iPhone settings to turn it on. It has a cost associated with it.

Liked by judysmayo

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This discussion thread is AMAZING. I truly appreciate the tech, low tech and non tech solutions. Frankly, many of these considerations, especially the low tech and non tech ones, will make the conference better for all attendees.

@alice44, I wonder if you might write a review about the text to speech apps your testing and post it as a discussion to the group. You could include pros, cons and a rating out of 5.

@tonyinmi, wow did you ever cover it. Thank you.

@imallears, I agree that knowing who the hard of hearing folks are in the room helps. I do in my case, but sometimes one doesn't. It's a good idea to check beforehand. I will certainly take advice directly from the HOH attendees.

@judysmayo You can use your phone’s mobile data to connect another phone, tablet, or computer to the internet. Sharing a connection this way is called tethering or using a hotspot. Some mobile carriers limit or charge extra for tethering. Mine just charges my data usage. You should check with your carrier. Here's more info:
For Android: https://support.google.com/android/answer/9059108?hl=en
For iPhone: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204023

@joyces, how are you adapting to be able to continue to participate in the meetings?

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I am so frustrated. I had written a long response to this that I was just about to post, got interrupted, and when I came back the response was gone, so I will try again. I tried a number of tabs but it was nowhere to be found!

First, I am amazed that this topic slipped by me because it is of great interest to me.

I have been wearing hearing aids since around 2004. I currently have Oticon Opn1 aids with the Connect Clip, and an iPhone. I have never heard about most of the technology mentioned here, perhaps because I am retired and my needs are very primarily social, and also because there is no HLAA chapter close to where I live so I have not been able to take advantage of that.

The suggestions mentioned are all great. I think making sure that the speaker repeats a question from the audience is imperative.
For a person like me, the needs are more social group settings. I think the ideas for the speaker at a conference would really help, but when groups break away for round-table discussions the most important thing is that one person speaks at a time. Often in settings like that people speak simultaneously either with concurrent discussions, or people enthusiastically chiming in while another person is speaking. For me, even with just four or six people in my own family room it becomes indistinguishable babble. I was sitting at a table with my husband, sister and her husband recently and with the three of them talking plus some mild background noise, I politely excused myself from the conversation and turned to my iPad, so it’s easy to see how when smaller groups break away from the main speaker for discussions it can become impossible for a HOH person.

@colleenyoung I applaud you for taking a pro-active approach to this and thank you for all of us who can benefit from group organizers having the foresight to try to accommodate those of us with hearing disabilities. I know too well the frustrations of coming out of a situation not knowing most of what was said.
Thank you.
JK

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@tonyinmi

Judysmayo, let me know if I'm not answering your question properly. If you are referring to the Live Transcribe app, then it is not available for the iPhone. The app is still in beta test so maybe when it is officially released, then the iPhone may be an option. If you do not have an Android, then the Otter app works best, in my opinion. Otter works on both Android and iPhone plus it does not require Wi-Fi. Both apps are free but Otter will only give 600 minutes free per month, which is sufficient. The app shows the amount of free time left. One downsize to Otter is that it does not let you change the font size within the app. The workaround is to go into the phone Settings and change the font size. It affects ALL the apps though. Hopefully, a future release of Otter will include changing the font so other apps are not affected. I've never tried using either app in a highly remote area but I'm guessing Otter will still work.
There are other apps that can do speech-to-text so don't limit yourself to just these two. Experiment when you hear of an app that helps people with hearing loss. Also, if you have good experiences, please share on this forum.
Tony Ferack, Hearing Technology Resource Specialist
Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA)
President, HLAA-MI Board of Trustees
SE Michigan Walk4Hearing Treasurer
President, Western Wayne County Chapter
tony.ferack@hearingloss-mi.org
Gallaudet University Certified Peer Mentor for Hearing Loss

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@tonyinmi No I wasn’t asking about the voice to text apps. I was asking if the hot spot lets you connect to the web in remote areas. I’m thinking you need cellular towers to connect. We were recently in a mountainous area without cell connection so Im thinking a hotspot wouldn’t work there.

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I have zero cell phone connectivity where I live. Although there's a cell tower less than a mile away, the Oregon coast is all up and down and a very tall hill rises on our place with the tower on the far side. We're only a couple of blocks east of the Pacific, but not close enough to use that giant cell receptor, the ocean. Of course, our cable, via a modem, allows us to have a landline, internet, and (most of the time) TV. My phone can connect to our WiFi (modem), but it still can't make or receive calls here. The idea that anyone doesn't have cell reception is just too much for techs in the city to understand! I also have an Android tablet w/Live Transcribe, but many of the meeting places in the small towns here don't have WiFi available–motels/hotels, indeed, just not meeting rooms in other places. I hope to unravel some of these mysteries next week during my visit to the audiologist in the city two hours away.

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@joyces

I have zero cell phone connectivity where I live. Although there's a cell tower less than a mile away, the Oregon coast is all up and down and a very tall hill rises on our place with the tower on the far side. We're only a couple of blocks east of the Pacific, but not close enough to use that giant cell receptor, the ocean. Of course, our cable, via a modem, allows us to have a landline, internet, and (most of the time) TV. My phone can connect to our WiFi (modem), but it still can't make or receive calls here. The idea that anyone doesn't have cell reception is just too much for techs in the city to understand! I also have an Android tablet w/Live Transcribe, but many of the meeting places in the small towns here don't have WiFi available–motels/hotels, indeed, just not meeting rooms in other places. I hope to unravel some of these mysteries next week during my visit to the audiologist in the city two hours away.

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if You have an iPhone, have you tried turning on WiFi Calling to use your WiFi to make phone calls?

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@judysmayo

@tonyinmi No I wasn’t asking about the voice to text apps. I was asking if the hot spot lets you connect to the web in remote areas. I’m thinking you need cellular towers to connect. We were recently in a mountainous area without cell connection so Im thinking a hotspot wouldn’t work there.

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Sorry, you do need cell phone connection. The hot spot app on a cell phone creates the WiFi hot spot using the celllular carrier. So without cell coverage – doesn’t work. Have you thought about getting a satellite phone?

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