Once again we have two posts in two days. We’ll see how that goes.

Now that we are all working remotely, we are having a lot of telecons. Did you know that everyone’s computer speakers and microphone are terrible? They are! Also, my work computer is a Mac Mini, and while it has speakers (terribly), it has no microphone whatsoever, so I can not call in to meetings with this computer. Work bought me a headset, and it was quite a debacle of delayed shipping, the wrong version of the headset (USB-A vs. USB-C), and then buying the adapter needed to get it to work with my computer. I could say more about this, but does anyone want to hear? Probably not.

When I was shopping for a headset, I knew that I wanted to get a wired headset because I am really, really, really, really, really bad at paying attention. While waiting for this headset to arrive, I have been calling in to meetings on my phone. Since my phone is not tethered to my computer, during several meetings I have muted my phone and then sat on my couch to pet a cat, de-linted a sweater, and done other non-work things. Being forced to stay near my computer will help me pay attention. The wired headsets come in one-ear and two-ear models. I wanted to get a one-ear model. It was pretty much impossible to determine whether the one-ear models could be used on either ear or if they were designed asymmetrically. This is probably not a big deal for most people, but it would matter a lot of people with asymmetric hearing loss. And this is not some sort of no-name-brand headset. This is a Plantronics headset. The people at Plantronics should know that they are doing and should make this sort of information clear in their product descriptions.

But, get this, another feature of my headset is that if you download the controller software and use the headset through USB, it can adjust your noise exposure over the day. Based on the number of hours that you spend on calls, it will automatically adjust the volume so that your noise exposure stays within OSHA guidelines. It also has an anti-startle feature to mediate sudden loud sounds, and it has a maximum volume!

Guess what the software does not have? There are no controls to change the relative volumes of various frequencies. Since the headset software is already applying audio processing algorithms to the sound, this seems like the natural add-on. The microphones on hearing aids are not designed to work with headsets. Having a headset that can boost the missing frequencies means that people with hearing loss do not need to up the overall volume, which can damage their residual hearing.

Also related, a colleague confirms that the Google Meet auto-captions work best when the speaker is using a real microphone (like a headset, but a phone is OK) and worst when the speaker is relying on the computer microphone.