Face masks have pretty much become the norm around the world in the fight against COVID-19. Wearing a face mask is required in some locations, and voluntary in others, but many find it inconvenient. For those with a hearing loss, it can be more of a hindrance than a help at times.
How Face Masks Impact the Hearing Loss Community
Masks are a problem for those dependent upon lip-reading to interpret speech. Since the vast majority of face-coverings do not allow the mouth to be seen, lip-reading is often ruled out.
It is problematic for those who use ASL to carry on a conversation. Signing often involves touching the face and using mouth movements, thus making it more challenging.
Patients currently in hospital, are often unable to hear, lip read, or read facial expressions of medical professionals wearing face masks. In the UK, this very scenario inspired NHS anesthetist, Dr. Rachel Grimaldi, to design a series of free, multi-lingual, digital flashcards (CARDMEDIC) to address this by transferring vital information to patients with hearing loss.
Making Communication Easier
There are some things one can do to aid in conversation during this era of masks, when out and about, or in a medical situation. Here are a few:
- If you have a hearing aid, always wear it when going out.
- Request to talk with someone in a quiet area with less background noise, and ask them to speak up.
- Write a note to carry with you to share that you are hard of hearing. Make it simple and direct, that you have trouble hearing, and you need someone who can take the time to communicate with you differently.
- Load a couple of different smartphone apps designed for communication. These include application apps as well as translation apps. Always carry your phone with you.
- Create a go-bag to take with you when you are out. This should contain a pad or two of paper along with markers and pens so that you can communicate through the written word.
The Deaf/Hard of Hearing Technology Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center has created a very informative and comprehensive list of tools to aid communication.
Some Facts and Figures on Hearing Loss
According to the WHO, there are 466 million people globally with hearing loss, 34 million of whom are children. 70% of those over 70 years of age are living with hearing loss, adding that it is the age group most likely to become hospitalized for the treatment of COVID-19.
Audiology Available in West Texas
If you or a loved one has an unaddressed hearing loss or needs a check-up, it is time to visit a professional. At the Holland Hearing Center, we understand this is a difficult time for everyone. We have set up heightened sanitation protocols and pre-appointment screening to keep our patients safe while providing top-quality care.