Masks and Hearing Loss
If you or someone you know are one of the 48 million Americans with hearing loss, communication is challenging enough even under the best of circumstances. The coronavirus pandemic has created additional unexpected obstacles. With the CDC recommending that everyone wear a face mask when they go out to help slow the spread of COVID-19, it is now more difficult to follow conversations. Even those without hearing loss have difficulties due to the muffled speech that masks create.
Face Mask Styles:
Problem: For those with hearing loss who wear hearing aids, simply putting on a face mask can be difficult. The most popular styles have loops that circle the ears, and these can easily dislodge hearing aids.
Solution: The best face mask for hearing aid wearers is the type that ties around the back of the head
Reliance on lip reading to communicate with others:
Problem: Many who have hearing loss are noticing that their hearing is even worse than they thought because they had relied on reading lips to interpret speech, and lips are now covered by a mask.
Solution: Some manufacturers have introduced see-through masks that offer a clear plastic panel where the mouth is located and have even gone so far as to include anti-fogging properties that prevent moisture from fogging up the plastic covering.
Communicating with a person who has a hearing loss can be stressful for both parties. Even when hearing devices are used, proper communication strategies are essential for maximizing the experience. Try the following tips when communicating with a hearing impaired individual.
- Maintain eye contact with the hearing impaired individual, facing them directly. Do not attempt to hold a conversation from another room; visual cues are an important component of successful communication.
- Make sure you have the person’s attention before beginning a conversation. It helps to state their name so they are aware you are addressing them, and can focus on your words.
- Speak slowly and concisely. Resist the temptation to shout, which can lead to distorted speech and make your words more difficult to understand. Pause between sentences to ensure what you are saying is understood.
- Do not cover your face with your hands or other objects. Individuals with hearing loss rely on visual cues to help follow the conversation, and sometimes find lip reading helpful. Avoid eating and drinking while conversing, as well.
- Try to find a quiet area free of background noise. This can be distracting and cause the hearing impaired individual to miss out on much of what you are saying.
- Repeat yourself if necessary. Try using a different word or rephrasing your sentence if it is too confusing. Refrain from complex words and phrases.
- Supplement your conversation by writing down important information. This might include jotting down the topic you will be discussing beforehand.
- Pay attention to the listener. If they look confused, offer to clarify what you have just said.
- Remember, communication is a two-way street. Give the other person a chance to speak, and do not interrupt.