Masks have been necessary but annoying accessories for all of us during the pandemic, but they have been even more annoying for those who are hard of hearing. We all rely on visual cues when we’re communicating with others, and those who are hearing impaired rely even more heavily on facial cues. Even if they are not officially “reading lips,” their brains use facial cues to help fill in the blanks when communicating with others. Masks block many of those facial cues, which has made life even more difficult for those who struggle with hearing.
There are several things you can do to help your loved ones — and all those you meet who have hearing loss — communicate more easily during the pandemic.
At Chesapeake Hearing Centers, our providers alternate between different masks. One of the masks is clear so that our patients who are hearing impaired can see our lips. Clear masks are available from many online retailers and can make a big difference for people with hearing impairments.
Even if they are wearing hearing aids, hearing-impaired people often use more energy to communicate than those with normal hearing. When we can get the person’s attention to let them know that we want to talk to them, it can keep the person from missing the first part of the conversation.
Close proximity can be difficult when we’re social distancing, but the closer we are to a loved one when speaking, the more easily they will hear us, especially if we’re facing them. Speaking from different rooms or with our backs turned can make it difficult for others to hear us and follow the conversation.
When possible, we should eliminate distractions when having conversations. While the television or other background noises might not bother listeners with normal hearing, they can be insurmountable distractions for people with hearing impairments.
Just as we wouldn’t expect a person with a broken leg to run a marathon, we should also understand that our loved ones with hearing impairments need accommodations to maximize their communication. Little changes can make a world of difference to our friends and neighbors with hearing loss. And the best news is that these changes improve communication for all of us, especially when wearing masks.