In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are protecting themselves by washing their hands, social distancing, and wearing face masks. The day to day may already be difficult if you are struggling with hearing loss, but it can be even more difficult with all of these health precautions.
The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that you wear a face mask if you can, but these can get in the way of communication. Masks cover the region between the nose and mouth to minimize the spread of the virus. They are used to protect both you and others because they significantly reduce the chances of the virus spreading.
According to a survey completed by the Hearing Health Foundation, 87% of their 625 respondents are having trouble communicating at this time. These face masks cover roughly half of your face, making it tricky for others to read non-verbal cues. To make matters more difficult, if you rely on lip-reading, face masks make it much more difficult to navigate daily conversations. Of those in the survey that said that they are having difficulty communicating at this time, 85% said that the inability to read lips is a problem. Some face masks, like the N95, can even impact our sound level by making sounds quieter and more difficult to hear, and the frequencies of our speech are muffled making speech more difficult to understand.
As you can see, while face masks protect our health, they also create a new communication barrier for those with hearing loss. You may be asking yourself “Okay, but what can I do to both follow the Public Health Agency’s guidelines and communicate?”.
Some people have been wearing “communicator masks”, which are masks with a clear panel in the front. This not only protects you and others, but it also helps you to lip-read or allow others to read your lips.
You may have found other ways to improve communication not on this list that work for you, but these suggestions are a good place to start. Whether you have a hearing loss or live with a loved one with hearing loss, following any number of the tips listed above can greatly help others with whom you are communicating. Be sure to follow social distancing guidelines by staying at least 6 feet away from others if you are going to lower your mask or choose not to wear one.
If you think you or a loved one may have hearing loss, take our online hearing test to determine if you should be tested by a professional when our stores reopen!