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Tips for Communicating with People Wearing Masks

woman wears a mask which obscures communicating during COVID-19

COVID-19 has changed many elements of our daily lives. As lock-down restrictions change across the country, new norms are being introduced. These are intended to help stem the spread of the virus and keep us safe. Two measures most of us are familiar with are social distancing and wearing a face mask. For those with hearing loss, communicating with people wearing masks becomes especially difficult. While face masks can help keep us safe, they also present unique challenges:

Unable to lip-read

Lip reading can be an important communication tool for people with hearing loss. Speech can be better understood by reading lips. Facial expressions also play an important role in communication.

A mask restricts lip reading and obscures facial expressions. This can present difficulties for people with hearing loss. People with hearing difficulties have to focus more closely to listen. The added strain on your brain can lead to cognitive overload. 

Masks block sounds

Not only does a face mask block visual cues, they can block sounds. Muffling speech can make hearing correctly very challenging.

Social distancing

Keeping a distance is intended to reduce the transmission of the Coronavirus. By maintaining distance, we should be able to reduce community transmission.

While distance can help our health, it doesn’t help our hearing. Additional distance, particularly in noisy areas, both present challenges. For those wearing a hearing aid device, they may notice their device is less sensitive at a distance.

Communicating with people wearing a mask

If you have a hearing loss, these tips can help you communicate with people wearing a mask.

Use transparent masks – if available

Maintain eye contact

Bring out the tried and trusted back-ups

The good old pen and paper can be a great tool during this pandemic. If you are really struggling to hear what is being said, you can always ask someone to jot down what they are trying to say.

In turn, you can write out notes in advance. Do you have a prescription to collect? Write out a note with your details, and hand it to the pharmacist.

Use assistive technology

Speech-to-text applications, such as Google Keyboard, can further your speech understanding.

While maintaining a safe distance, hold your phone towards the person speaking. You may want to practice at home first.

Reduce background noise

Background noise makes communication difficult in the best of times. However, when compounded with social distancing and face masks, it can be a really big problem.

Where possible, communicate in quiet areas. Try to find somewhere where you will be uninterrupted, and with as minimal distractions as possible.

Hearing devices and face masks

If you wear a hearing aid device, make sure you are careful when removing your masks. More people are reportedly losing their hearing aids due to wearing masks.

The straps on the sides can become tangled in your hearing aid device. This can cause your hearing aid device to fly off when you remove your mask.

To help keep your hearing aid device safe, we advise removing your mask at home. This way, even if your hearing aid falls out, it is in the safety of your home.

Source: Hearing Life

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