In July, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention declared face coverings a “critical tool” in stopping the spread of COVID-19. While a medical necessity to help contain the surge, face coverings present a unique set of problems for those with hearing loss.
Below are five tips on how you can stay safe during the global pandemic while also ensuring you can still communicate.
Invest in a Clear Mask
In addition to preventing the spread of the virus, masks obscure facial expressions and impede your ability to lip read, a skill many with hearing loss depend on.
Transparent face shields are a potential solution, but they are open on the bottom and not recommended by the CDC “for normal everyday activities or as a substitute for cloth face coverings.”
Instead, those who rely on lip reading are opting for clear masks or those with a transparent panel. A company founded in Baltimore in 2017 spent three years in research and development to create a clear material ideal for face masks, as it won’t fog up.
According to David Aronoff, director of the department of infectious disease at the Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology and Inflammation, a handmade version of a see-through mask can help in everyday situations. “We know that the virus cannot penetrate plastic or solid materials, so see-through masks provide potentially a great option for balancing infection prevention with the desire to be able to see somebody’s mouth move.”
Being upfront about your hearing impairment lets others know that you may need help. One Columbus woman is advocating for the use of buttons, reading:
- “Please be patient. I’m heard of hearing.”
- “Your mask means I can’t read your lips. Please speak up.”
- “Hard of hearing. Please keep mask on and speak up.”
Ask Others to Speak Lower
When you ask people to speak up, they almost always speak in a higher pitch. This is not helpful, as most people with hearing loss have a hard time hearing high-frequency sounds. Experts advise being specific and asking someone to speak “lower, slower and louder.”
Face the Person You Are Talking To
Make sure to get the attention of the person you are trying to communicate with before you start talking. Try saying their name to get their attention, even if you have to read it off their nametag. And look them directly in the eye when speaking.
If you face someone when talking, you can remove a lot of background noise, one of the biggest challenges to successful communication.
Have One-on-One Conversations
If possible, talk to one person at a time rather than a large group. This allows you to focus better and actually hear them.
To learn more about hearing and communicating well during the COVID-19 pandemic or to schedule an appointment, contact Audiology Center Northwest today.