Video calls are becoming the new way to chat and stay in touch with family and friends. COVID-19 lockdowns have made Zoom calls the new normal, and they’re likely to stay with us long after lockdowns are over, particularly for those with distant family and friends.
But not all of us take to Zoom naturally, and sometimes those family video calls can be awkward and, if you’re living with hearing loss, sometimes challenging and tiring too.
If that’s been your experience, we’ve got new ways to make your next video catch up less tiring and more fun! These tips will help no matter what platform you use – whether it’s Zoom, Google Meet, House Party, FaceTime or anything else.

Why Zooming can be tiring

Video calls can be mentally and cognitively tiring, especially if you’re living with hearing loss. Don’t worry, it’s not just you! “Zoom fatigue” is real.
Stanford psychologist Jeremy Bailenson has published a paper about “Zoom fatigue”. He says there are four reasons why video calls are tiring:
  1. excessive amounts of close-up eye gaze
  2. cognitive load
  3. increased self-evaluation from staring at video of oneself
  4. constraints on physical mobility
And that doesn’t even factor in the additional mental and cognitive challenge of hearing loss!
Bailenson says the default setting for some platforms is the “Brady Bunch grid” where you see everyone in small squares. Normally, we don’t stare at each other’s faces constantly. Looking at your own face and having everyone staring back at you without a break can feel strange and tiring. That’s not how we interact in real life.

1. Connect over food
Food offers an easy way to liven up Zoom calls. Why not come together “virtually” over a shared plate of food? It’s a traditional way of bringing families together, so why not bring this to the “virtual world”?
We can talk about favourite recipes, what we’ve cooked this week, or discuss and share old family recipes.
Some families also cook together online - either all cooking the same recipe during the week and sharing photos with each other online or doing step by step cooking in real time too.

2. Have a theme
Why not have a “food theme” night?
Love the pasta of Italy, the curries of India or the noodles of Singapore? Prepare some food and share it over dinner with the iPad or phone propped up so you can talk. Bond over the challenges of hand-rolling sushi or perfecting the perfect thin pizza base.
And if you’d prefer a break from cooking, why not all “order in” and enjoy a shared pizza night? Once you’ve done your family Zoom call over a few slices of ham and pineapple pizza, you’ll never want to go back to the traditional “sit and chat” format!

3. Dress up
You’ve probably seen lots of examples of people dressing up on their video calls to celebrate special events. Birthdays have been especially popular.
However, there are lots of ways we can use dressing up to dial up the fun factor:
  • Why not wear something specific to the country of the chosen cuisine? If you’re going with a French theme, it might be as simple (and cute) as a hankie or small scarf tied around the neck?
  • You could have a sports theme and wear the colours of your favourite sports team (soccer, rugby or AFL), particularly if you’re in the lead up to the code’s finals.
  • If you’ve got very young children on the call, it might be as simple as colour theme, where everyone wears a particular colour.
  • Another option for families with young children is that everyone wears a hat.
 The idea is to keep it simple, but just add an extra element of interest and fun to the call

4. Take a class
Enjoying a shared activity is another great way to spend fun, pressure-free time together.
There are lots of online courses you can sign up to, such as clay making, cocktail/mocktail recipes, or creating art together through a teacher-guided “paint and sip” class.

5. Play games

And once you’re explored food, themes and dress-ups, then get ready to explore the world of online games.
Depending on the age of friends or family in the group, there’s an endless array of online games you can play with children and adults alike. There are lots of online trivia apps, or you can create your own family trivia through Kahoot.
YouTube dynamo Shawn M Howell has posted a video online that has had close to 1 million views entitled 20 Fun Games to Play on Zoom l Easy Virtual Zoom Games for Families. As the name suggests, it includes 20 easy virtual zoom games to play with kids of all ages - so you’ll never be short of ideas. Plus, she includes games suitable for young kids, and big kids (parents and grandparents) too.
Of course, you don’t always need an app: you can play some good old-fashioned charades, too.

6. Watch TV together
Why not set up the iPad in the living room and watch TV together?
For older family members, you can watch favourite movies or a TV mini-series together. And for younger ones, what would be better than watching a favourite Disney movie with cousins or a grandparent?

7. Share funny stories
And for times where you don’t have any special themes or activities planned, just try to have some new or funny things to share and discuss.
This might be a funny story about something that happened to you - or sharing something interesting or funny you heard. Think about and plan your call in advance, and what you can do to get the ball rolling.

Keep everyone involved and have fun

As you try out some of these new “group call” ideas, it’s important to remember that in all friends and family groups, there are natural extroverts and introverts.
Try to watch out for anyone in the group that might be hanging back and have a few questions up your sleeve to bring them back into the conversation. The more people involved in the activity or conversation the better.
Plus it shows you’re aware of the importance of everyone being involved and sharing the love and companionship of being connected. 
The most important thing is to have fun, and not to be dull! Zoom calls simply require a bit of a mind shift in the way we’re used to interacting with friends and loved ones.
Loosen up, be funny and engaging. It’s good for you, plus it’s fun and enjoyable for your loved ones too.

Having trouble connecting? We’re here to help

And of course, there’s never been a more important time to enjoy the love and companionship that comes from better hearing than during times of social isolation. Particularly when you need to use remote technologies to stay connected with others.
So if you need any assistance with your hearing at this time, please let us know. We’re happy to assist with:
  • connecting your hearing aid to a video call
  • assessing your hearing if you’re concerned about potential hearing loss, or if you’re having difficulty hearing or connecting with family and friends at the moment.
If you’re having trouble connecting your hearing aid to a video call, you can call us for help on tel: 1300 104 730 (in Australia).

If you don’t have a hearing aid but you suspect your hearing isn’t what it used to be, we can help. You can do a quick, free online hearing test, or book an appointment at one of our many clinics across Australia. To find a clinic in your local area, use our search tool.
You can also talk to one of our consultants on 1300 104 730, or email us at