Audio Visual and the Hearing Impaired

Conferences and events can be a nightmare for people with limited or no hearing. Trying to lip read, or listen via a hearing aid through a mass of background noise can result in people missing information and not being able to participate fully in the event. Worse still is the potential danger – if a fire alarm sounds and some people cannot hear it or understand what is happening, it can result in serious incidents or even loss of life.

It is a major issue for every conference and event organiser. Hearing loss affects more than 10 million people in the UK and numbers are constantly growing. It is estimated that by 2031, a massive 14.5 million people will be suffering from some form of hearing problem. This means that as many as one in six of visitors to any conference or event experiences hearing problems.

Effective AV preparations can make a tremendous difference. Check there is a suitable hearing aid induction loop system available throughout the rooms being used during the event. Such systems enable hearing aid users to switch off background noise like rustling paper and tune into the speaker.

Digital sub titles are extremely useful in assisting hearing impaired participants take part in events and conferences. Even if they are struggling to hear all the words being spoken, they can follow the main thread of a speech via the subtitles. Good AV equipment will enable these subtitles to be seen correctly. Careful attention is needed for the positioning of subtitles within presentations of any kind. Dr Pablo Romero Fresco of the University of Roehampton has been undertaking research into the way people view images and text on screen by using eye tracking technology to identify the best positioning for subtitles. He believes that subtitling should be undertaken early within the filming process rather than being just an extra facility added on to the material at the end. This ensures the greatest effectiveness of any subtitles.

Presenters and conference organisers should take time before a conference to run through any subtitles or visual material to make sure that it is clearly visible. Consideration should be given to including a sign language translation of particularly important speeches. Such a translation can be filmed beforehand, or during the event – thus enabling better understanding of questions and answers. Talk to your ÅV equipment providers to make sure that all the needs of hearing impaired participants are covered.