These days, masks are essential for our safety when it comes to social distancing and preventing and/or reducing our exposure to COVID. However, for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, masks can make communication more difficult.
People with hearing loss tend to utilize Speech-reading or lip-reading, where a person focuses on another’s face – especially their lips – to gather visual cues from their facial expressions and mouth movements to help reduce the lack of speech clarity that can occur as a result of hearing loss. When a person wears a mask, it covers the lower half of their face so you can no longer see their mouth, and it’s harder to see full facial expressions.
Here are some beneficial strategies that we can all use to help improve communication:
- Make sure not to speak too quickly.
- Speak clearly and enunciate – do not shout! Shouting can distort the sound of your voice, affecting the clarity of your speech and making it harder to understand.
- Rephrase what you said rather than repeat it exactly.
- Try to converse in a quieter environment, minimizing the background noise.
- Be sure to look at your speaking partner. Even though you’re wearing a mask, your speech will travel directly toward your companion instead of away, and they will be able to see a portion of your face to gather other communication cues.
Additionally, masks can sometimes be tricky for hearing aid wearers with a behind-the-ear (BTE) style aid, as the wires or tubes can get caught in the mask loops and become tangled up, increasing the risk of them falling off and getting lost when the mask is removed.
Tips for keeping your hearing aids safe and secure:
- If possible, try to wear a mask designed to fit around your head instead of your ears.
- With a typical mask design, you can connect the mask loops to a piece of fabric with buttons so it can sit at the back of your head instead of behind your ear. Buttons attached to a headband is another attachment option.
- If the hearing aid does fall off, there might be a way to track its location! Some models of hearing aid are able to be located by their phone’s GPS system through their app.
We hope these recommendations help!
Until next time,
Your friendly neighbourhood audiologists.