KGH Interpretation Spanish-English Medical & Mental Health Interpretation

Reducing OPI/VRI Anxiety During COVID-19, Part 4: Change Your Ringtone

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It’s 2005.  If you were still in high school like I was, all the cool kids had their Motorola Razr cell phones stashed away below their desks so the teachers couldn’t see them painstakingly texting, letter by letter.  Remember how you had to hit the 7 key four times to type the letter S?  If any one of them was careless, their phone would start ringing in the middle of class and their custom ringtone of “Lips of an Angel” would start playing, resulting in the confiscation of their beloved Razr.

These days, hardly anyone uses custom ringtones.  They’ve become nothing more than a (tragically?) brief footnote in the history of cell phones.  Most of us either stick with the default ringtone on our cell phones, or spend a whole thirty seconds selecting from the list of a dozen or so prepackaged tones and call it a day.  But what about for our VRI or OPI setup(s)?  Maybe this is an unexplored avenue for you, but changing your ringtone (if you are able) can be a great way to reduce the initial anxiety you may get with incoming calls.

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Tip #4: Change Your Ringtone

This will likely come as no surprise to you: many default ringtones are deafening and, to say in the least, startling. When I first began phone interpreting, the deafening scream of my desktop VoIP application’s default ringtone would not only make me jump, but sometimes make my heart race and my palms get sweaty.

In some people, especially those with anxiety, such loud, startling sounds can trigger a fight-or-flight response, also know as an acute stress response. Most people will usually only have an acute stress response when faced with a real threat (whether it be physical or psychological), but folks with anxiety tend to have an easily or frequently triggered fight-or-flight response. Although some of us live with anxiety 365 days a year, pandemic or not, many of you are likely experiencing sustained stress and situational anxiety from the pandemic that you may not otherwise have.

Accurate visualization of my previous VoIP desktop app ringtone and also (no coincidence) how it would make me feel; Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

During the fight or flight response, your body releases hormones (including adrenaline) that cause a domino effect of physiological responses: increased heart rate, increased respiratory rate, dilated pupils, and even shaking. It raises your blood pressure, too! This fight-or-flight response takes about 20 minutes to an hour to completely dissipate.

Does any of this sound like a good way to start off a remote interpreting encounter to you?

Am I Able to Change my Ringtone?

Your ability to even touch your ringtone is highly dependent upon how you’re taking calls.  You may be required to use a certain interpreting platform to take calls, using a required third-party application that isn’t specifically designed for interpreting, or you’re interpreting the old-fashioned way through a dedicated phone line (whether landline or VoIP).

Using a Dedicated Interpreting Platform

(Managing Ringtone Volume)

Your options are often limited if you’re required to use a dedicated interpreting platform, and changing your ringtone is usually not an option.  Only one of the interpreting agencies I work for give me the option to adjust the volume of the incoming call ringtone on their dedicated interpreting platform.  If you simply turn your computer’s volume down, it will not only affect the incoming call ringtone volume, but also the volume of the audio on the incoming call. That being said, there are a few solutions to managing the volume of your ringtone if your platform does not give you the option:

  1. Keep your volume low to limit the ringtone’s volume, then quickly turn up the volume once the call audio begins.
    Obviously this isn’t an ideal solution and can be anxiety-inducing in and of itself, but it can be a low-tech workaround for dulling the screech of your ringtone.  That being said, you usually have a few seconds after picking up before the call connects, and you usually are the first person to speak!  Having built-in volume control on your headset really speeds up this process.
  2. Wear your headset around your neck and put it on at the start of the call.
    If I wear my headset around my neck, I can still hear the trill of the ringtone notifying me of an incoming call.  Again, the slight delay between picking up a call and hearing the audio on the other end will usually allow you enough time to put on and adjust your headset.
  3. Turn on “Loudness Equalization.”
    If you are running on Windows, there is a handy little setting in your sound control panel called “Loudness Equalization.”  This is a common solution for YouTube videos being too quiet, even if you have both the player’s volume and system volume turned all the way up, but it can also work for dulling really loud sounds.  This setting makes loud sounds quieter and quiet sounds louder, and can have the extra added benefit of improving your calls’ volume if a client is raising their voice or whispering.  This article by LifeHacker shows you how to do it!

Chances are, the other agencies that don’t offer me the option to change my ringtone in some way won’t implement these sorts of features any time soon.   This is likely either because they’re using a third-party platform that they simply can’t change, or because a single interpreter (me!) asking for such a feature isn’t worth the extra time and money spent on making such a change.  That being said, the more interpreters request these features and the more we advocate for ourselves, the more likely agencies are to be motivated to respond.

The more interpreters request these features and the more we advocate for ourselves, the more likely agencies are to be motivated to respond.

Using a Third-Party Application Not Designed for Interpretation

Seeing that interpreting platforms and applications are very specialized, they don’t offer all the bells and whistles many less-specialized applications may offer.  This is because interpreting platforms are designed to appeal to interpreting agencies (that’s who they sell to, not interpreters themselves!), whereas general communication applications aim to appeal to as many audiences as possible.  This results in a lot of extra features to try and convince people to use their application, which may or may not include the ability to change your ringtone.  There are so many different applications, so please check your application’s settings and knowledge base for more information!

Nextiva Desktop settings window with the ability to change “Ring signal”

I personally use Nextiva for my VoIP service when interpreting for one of my agencies.  The agency that requires it does not have a dedicated interpreting platform and instead requires you to have your own phone line for interpreting.  You are able to either mark your availability through their online platform, or call their service via your phone line and set your status to available.  While I was given the option of receiving a free desktop phone through Nextiva, I opted instead to use their desktop application to make and receive calls.  And hey, guess what?  I can change my ringtone!

Ringtone Changing Time!

If you’ve gotten to this point and can change your ringtone, I cannot emphasize this enough: do it!  It was such a huge, positive change for me.  The first call I received was a pleasant surprise because I had changed my ringtone the day before and forgotten about it.  You may think I’m being dramatic, but when the call came in, I smiled.  It was so nice not to be startled by the default ringtone that reminded me of those screaming landline phones from the 50’s.

I highly recommend a soothing or relaxing ringtone.  Of course you want to hear it and recognize it as an incoming call, but there are plenty of free ringtones available online.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Ambient Glitch (.mp3 or .m4r download via Mobcup)
    Ambient string (guitar?) music with a light beat and ethereal white noise in the background.
  • Ambient Remix (.mp3 or .m4r download via Mobcup)
    An echoing upbeat, light percussive tune.  Think of an echoing wooden xylophone.
  • Whisper Woman (.mp3 or .m4r download via Mystical Heart Music)
    Light plucking of a string instrument, followed by a violin crescendo.

All of the pages linked above also have links to additional ringtones.

Have to Convert that File?

You may find that your program or platform only accepts certain filetypes.  While .MP3 files are commonly available to download as ringtones, many Windows-based programs will only accept .WAV file format.  Fortunately converting between these filetypes is incredibly easy and free.  I made a short video about how to convert an .MP3 ringtone file to .WAV in VLC Media Player (which again, is free).

Desktop Phones

I’ll be honest, the last time I used a desktop phone in my own home was in the early 2000’s.  I don’t have a lot to contribute, here!  If you’re using a desktop phone for interpreting, perhaps you could share your recommendations for how you manage ringtones in the comments?

Stay Tuned

Stay tuned for the penultimate fifth article next week about another tip on anxiety reduction about setting up your home office for success. Be sure to subscribe to my site’s articles or follow the KGH Interpretation Facebook page to stay informed of new updates!

Missed the other articles in the series? You can check them out here:

  1. Reducing OPI/VRI Anxiety During COVID-19, Part 1: Reference Materials
  2. Reducing OPI/VRI Anxiety During COVID-19, Part 2: Call Flow Charts
  3. Reducing OPI/VRI Anxiety During COVID-19, Part 3: Track Your Time
  4. Reducing OPI/VRI Anxiety During COVID-19, Part 4: Change Your Ringtone
  5. Reducing OPI/VRI Anxiety During COVID-19, Part 5: Set Your Space
  6. Reducing OPI/VRI Anxiety During COVID-19, Part 6: Relaxation Techniques

Did you see the teaser video I posted on my YouTube channel about the self-care series? Be sure to check it out and subscribe!

[Cover photo by Pixabay from Pexels]
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About the author

Kelly (Grzech) Henriquez

Kelly is a Certified Medical Interpreter (CMI-Spanish) through the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (NBCMI). She works as an independent contractor in the greater Richmond, Virginia area as a Spanish-English medical interpreter and also specializes in mental health interpretation.

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KGH Interpretation Spanish-English Medical & Mental Health Interpretation

Kelly (Grzech) Henriquez

I am a Certified Medical Interpreter (CMI-Spanish) through the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (NBCMI). I work as an independent contractor in the greater Richmond, Virginia area as a Spanish-English medical interpreter. I also specialize in mental health interpretation. Click here to read more about me.

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