Hearing Loss & Face Masks: How to Communicate?
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, face masks have become widespread, used to protect ourselves and those around us.
However, face masks can pose a communication problem for those with hearing loss. Communicating with hearing loss is hard enough already without the added struggle of face masks.
This article will discuss the issues surrounding face masks and some tips for communicating with people who have hearing loss while wearing face masks.
The Issue of Face Masks
Communicating with hearing loss is complicated as it reduces the overall loudness and clarity of speech. Face masks can cause even more difficulty for people communicating with hearing loss. Masks affect the volume and clarity of speech and remove access to lipreading and facial expressions.
Even people with normal hearing may mishear someone while speaking while wearing a face mask, so it’s not hard to imagine how hard it is for someone to understand speech with hearing loss.
Face masks also remove access to important visual cues. People with hearing loss often rely on lipreading and facial expressions to help fill in the gaps, sometimes more than they realise. While wearing face masks, people with hearing loss cannot read the lips of the person they’re speaking to, making it a lot harder for them to understand.
How to Communicate with a Face Mask
Although the pandemic seems to be getting better, face masks are here to stay, at least for the time being.
So, how can you make it easier to communicate if you’ve got hearing loss or with someone who has hearing loss?
Tips for people with hearing loss
- Make sure you’re wearing your hearing aids. Hearing aids amplify sound to make you hear better.
- Ask your Audiologist if your hearing aids have ‘face mask mode’. Some manufacturers have special settings that allow you to hear people with face masks better. Alternatively, your Audiologist can make some adjustments to your hearing aid settings to help with this.
- Use an Assistive Listening Device (ALD), such as a remote microphone. This technology can be worn by the speaker and sends the signal (their voice) directly to your hearing aids, removing the barriers of distance and noise.
- Try to reduce background noise if possible, such as turning off any music or the TV.
- Make eye contact with the speaker.
- Ask people to write down or type important information, especially if you struggle to hear it.
- Don’t be shy to ask them to repeat themselves.
- Let the person you are speaking with know what they can do to make it easier for you to hear them. People are often happy to make adjustments to help you hear them.
Tips for people speaking to someone with hearing loss
- Don’t talk too fast.
- Speak louder than usual, but don’t shout.
- Check that the person with hearing loss has heard and understands you.
- Repeat or rephrase what you have said if they have misheard you.
- Try wearing a face shield or clear face mask so they have access to important visual cues, such as lipreading and facial expressions.
- Use visual cues to get their attention, such as waving.
- Use hand gestures where possible.
- Be patient. It is often quite frustrating for the person with hearing loss.
To Sum it Up
No matter how severe it is, communicating with hearing loss is hard.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made this even more of a challenge with the introduction of face masks and social distancing.
Face masks reduce the overall level of clarity and speech and remove the ability to lipread and understand facial expressions.
If you have hearing loss or have to communicate with someone who has hearing loss, be sure to try the tips above to make the conversation easier for both parties.
If you have recently been diagnosed with hearing loss and need hearing aids or are looking to replace your existing ones, check out the range at EarDeals.