Day 6

For deaf Canadians, using Zoom has been a pandemic 'silver lining', says author

As many people fight off Zoom fatigue nearly a year into the pandemic, deaf author Bev Biderman says she hopes the video calling platform is here to stay.

'Zoom has given some order to discussions and conversations': Bev Biderman

Bev Biderman, who is deaf and has a cochlear implant, that using Zoom has been the "silver lining" of the pandemic. (Submitted by Bev Biderman)

Read audio transcript

As many people fight off Zoom fatigue nearly a year into the pandemic, Bev Biderman says she hopes the video calling platform is here to stay.

"I'm living in a bubble of one since the pandemic started," Biderman, a past board chair for the Canadian Hearing Society, told Day 6. "But I have been able to get a little bit of that sociability back by way of Zoom. 

"It's not perfect, but it does work and it does help to stop me from being completely isolated."

Biderman is deaf and has a cochlear implant, an electronic device that picks up sound through a microphone and turns it into electronic impulses that stimulate the auditory nerve. Through the auditory nerve, those impulses are sent to the brain, which interprets them as sound.

While the implant allows Biderman to pick up and understand the sounds around her, she also follows conversations by reading lips.

Biderman said she believes Zoom will remain popular among users with hearing loss even after the pandemic ends and in-person gatherings are allowed once again. (Shutterstock)

Lip reading in person has been challenging for many who rely on the practice during the pandemic due to mask requirements that cover speakers' mouths. 

But thanks to the setup of Zoom, which prioritizes speakers in a large window and discourages people from talking over each other, she says she's able to follow along with virtual conversations sometimes better than she can in person.

"If I go to a lecture, for example, in real life, I may be sitting at the back of the hall and I may not be able to lip read. On Zoom, I can lip read," said Biderman, who is also the author of Wired for Sound: A Journey Into Hearing.

"So I have to say that Zoom has really been a boon for people like me with a hearing loss and who lip read."

'Zoom has given some order to discussions and conversations'

Zoom has also changed how Biderman engages with her book club, which now meets virtually. 

That club regularly invites authors to speak, and at in-person events, Biderman had a front-row seat. While that made it easy to follow the speaker, hearing others in the room could prove challenging.

"I might not be able to see them, or see them very well, or ... they may be way at the back of the room, so it would be impossible for me to either hear them well enough or fall back on to lip reading," she said.

There have been silver linings in this pandemic, and we have to seek them out.- Bev Biderman

With Zoom focusing on the active speaker, that's no longer an issue.

Biderman recognizes, however, that not everyone shares her enthusiasm for the platform.

"Most of my friends are not deaf," she said. "They tell me that they are so sick and tired of Zoom that they hope never, ever, ever have to be on another Zoom session after the pandemic is over," she said.

But for people with hearing loss, Biderman says she hopes its popularity will live beyond the end of the pandemic.

"As far as people with a hearing loss … I think that many of them had been introduced to Zoom, especially older people, and they will keep using it after the pandemic is over," she said.

"Zoom has given some order to discussions and conversations. I still miss my hugs. I still miss in-person meetings. I'm still yearning to have a meal with my family and friends, but there have been silver linings in this pandemic, and we have to seek them out.

"And Zoom has been one of them."


Written by Jason Vermes. Produced by Laurie Allan.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?

now