Face Masks and Impaired Hearing

How to Manage Face Masks and Impaired Hearing

While wearing masks are the new normal and are required in many establishments, for those who are hard of hearing, wearing a face mask during the COVID-19 pandemic makes communication much more difficult. Managing face masks and impaired hearing is a challenge for many since it makes it impossible to read lips and visual cues. Besides a mask covering up a person’s face, a face mask muffles a person’s voice, making it harder for an already hard of hearing person to make out what a person is saying. Add social distancing to that equation, and you have quite a precarious situation. However, there are ways to help mitigate the situation to help improve communication.

How to Manage Face Masks and Impaired Hearing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

• If you are hard of hearing, try to avoid talking to people in groups. Speaking one-on-one with a person, instead of within a circle of people can make communication easier. It’s easier to focus on one person than a group of people, and it’s easier to hear without multiple voices going on at once.
• If you wear hearing aids, wearing a mask can be difficult. Ear hooks can make a person’s hearing aid fall out, and these devices are too expensive to want to take that chance. To help prevent your hearing aids from falling off and getting lost, use a connector to hold your mask across the back of your head, instead of around your ears.
• If you are comfortable with “advertising,” it helps to write “hard of hearing” or “hearing impaired” on your face mask. While it may seem silly, it gives the other person an immediate alert that they will have to make some adjustments to communicate. It also removes the need to explain you are hard of hearing each time you have an interaction.
• When all else fails, keeping a pad and pen/pencil on hand never hurts. Writing, while it may be slightly inconvenient, makes an excellent backup method. Plus, it removes the possibility of “mishearing.” If need be, a person’s phone could also be used if you want to save on paper. Obviously, this method works best for those short and sweet conversations and may help limit the number of misunderstandings and the frustration that can follow.
• If you are not hard of hearing, but live or often interact with a person, or people, who have impaired hearing, wearing a clear mask can help. A deaf or hard of hearing person often relies on a person’s facial cues and lips to make out what they are saying, and with a mask on this can be difficult. However, they do sell transparent masks, which you can find online or at an audiology office (check with yours), which will make it easier for a hard of hearing person to see and read your mouth.

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