How masks impact people with hearing loss

COVID-19 has changed the way we work, spend our time and communicate with others. For some, the changes have been positive and have opened new avenues as to how people can communicate with friends and family. For others, such as those with hearing loss, communication has become more difficult.

Hearing loss can be defined as a reduction or complete loss in hearing abilities, making it difficult to hear and understand speech or environmental sounds.

Those who suffer from hearing loss often compensate for a reduction in hearing abilities by reading lips and becoming more vigilant in understanding social cues.

While people previously used these tactics to get by, the increase in Plexiglass wall use, growth of virtual meetings and the constant use of cloth or surgical masks to slow the spread of COVID-19 has eliminated the primary forms of communication for those with hearing loss.

If you have hearing loss and are struggling with communicating, try some of these solutions next time you’re at the grocery store or picking up a takeout meal:

  • Make sure you face your communication partner and speak one-on-one with that person to cut down on ambient noise. This also helps with identifying facial cues.
  • Bring a family member or friend with you when you go out to assist with communicating
  • If you wear hearing aids, wear masks that tie around your head instead of the ones that loop around your ears to eliminate discomfort and help lower the risk of losing your hearing aids when you taking off your mask.
  • Type out what you’re trying to communicate on your phone or mobile device and show it to the person you are trying to speak with. This can also be completed with voice-to-text applications.
  • Write the words “Hearing impaired” on your mask so others will be able to adjust their communication strategy more effectively.

If you know of someone who has hearing loss and are having difficulty communicating with them, try speaking at a slower speed and at a louder volume. This allows you to enunciate your words so an individual with hearing loss can understand you better.

You can also purchase clear face masks or face coverings that have clear centers so that those with hearing loss can read your lips as you speak.

Has communicating with face masks been difficult for you? Are you interested in testing your hearing? Make an appointment with UofL Physicians – Audiology (Hearing & Balance specialists) at 502-583-3687 or by visiting https://uoflphysicians.com/service-specialty/hearing-balance/.