While many areas around the country have begun to reopen and lift stay-at-home orders put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you should still take precautions to protect your health and that of your family. The CDC recommends that you continue following basic guidelines like washing your hands (thoroughly!), not touching your face, and staying home if you don’t feel well.
One guideline, however, can create challenges for people with hearing loss: the recommendation (or requirement, in some areas) to wear a face covering in public settings. This can be difficult for those with hearing loss for several reasons.
First, if you use hearing aids, the elastic bands of the face mask may interfere with your hearing devices and could tug on them while you are wearing the face mask. You may also find that removing your face mask also pulls out your hearing aids.
Second, it’s more difficult to understand someone who is wearing a face mask. This is especially true if you have hearing loss and have learned to rely on lip-reading or facial cues to aid in your understanding. The face mask can also muffle and distort speech.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to make it easier to effectively communicate while still wearing a face mask to protect yourself and others. How to wear a face mask with hearing aids:
Remove your mask carefully. This will decrease the chance of yanking out your hearing aids. Move slowly as you remove your mask so that if your hearing aids are dislodged, you can easily catch them and reinsert them.
Try using a mask with fabric ties instead of elastic loops. The ties can be adjusted and loosened to avoid interfering with your hearing aids.
Try out a mask holder. These are worn near the back of the head and hold the ties or loops of the face mask. Using a mask holder may reduce your mask’s interference with your hearing aids.
Speak with your hearing professional. They may have tips on how to make it easier and more comfortable to wear a face mask with hearing aids.
How to communicate with someone with hearing loss while wearing a face mask:
Speak clearly and slowly. Try to enunciate your words. Do not yell, as this can be painful for someone with hearing loss. If the person does not understand what you say, try rephrasing it rather than repeating the same misunderstood sentence.
Reduce background noise as much as possible. Make sure you have the attention of the person you are speaking to.
If the person uses hearing aids, make sure they are wearing them and the devices are turned on.
Take turns while speaking. Do not allow more than one person to speak at a time.
Use body language and eye contact to further express yourself.
Consider using a portable hearing aid amplifier.
If possible, use a clear plastic face covering. This enables the person with hearing loss to see your mouth while you are speaking and can improve their understanding.
These simple tips can go a long way in helping a person with hearing loss better communicate with those wearing face masks. Whether you have hearing loss or you know someone who does, be patient with yourself and others as we all strive to protect ourselves and navigate our new normal.
For more information about how to use a face mask with hearing aids, or how to more effectively communicate while wearing a face covering, we welcome you to contact our hearing practice today. We look forward to serving you!