Often, we have no idea how much we rely on visual cues to understand what’s being said. It’s true of the deaf as well as the hard of hearing. Since face masks have become mandatory in most places, a new challenge has arisen for the hard of hearing community.
It has been estimated that approximately 60 million Americans suffer from some level of hearing loss. Additionally, many people live with the hearing loss as opposed to getting it tested and seeking help from a professional.
With the country masking up, it has caused many people to come to terms with the fact that they are experiencing hearing loss. There’s a greater dependency on using your ears.
The Problem with Masks and Hearing
Although masks are being recommended as a way to stop the spread of the coronavirus, they are troublesome for people who struggle with hearing. There are a few reasons for this.
First, we rely on visual cues when having a conversation. This includes lip-reading and facial expressions; lip-reading provides a crutch for communication when certain sounds are unclear, and facial expressions offer much needed emotional context to what is being spoken.
Second, masks are going to muffle speech.
For those who were already struggling with untreated hearing loss, the use of masks may well provide a final push for them to get the help they need to regain healthy hearing.
Different styles of masks, such as those that have a fixed strap length, can make it challenging to speak and produce sounds with much clarity at all. Combine that with background noise and social distancing, and it can be nearly impossible to carry on a conversation of any length.
There are a few other issues with today’s pandemic that is making it harder to hear what’s going on.
Wearing a mask for those with hearing aids or cochlear implants can be uncomfortable – causing many to remove their hearing devices to accommodate a face mask.
For those that choose to keep their hearing aids in while wearing a face mask, they are then faced with the problem and possibility of misplacing their devices upon the removal of the masks.
Thankfully, today’s ever-evolving society is quick to react to such a universal issue. Face masks with clear windows are becoming readily available and are also being called to become the ‘norm.’
It’s great to see so many people globally come together to support those in the hard of hearing community.
I have also personally come across a few variations of face mask accessories that adjust the mask to fit around the back of the head rather than hook onto the ears to solve the problem of wearing hearing aids with a face mask.
Some have even developed a completely new style of face mask that fastened at the back for a secure and comfortable fit.
These difficult times have sure brought on some challenges. Still, likewise, ‘lockdown life’ has blessed us with essential time to be creative in our homes and invent amazing solutions to the problems created by the pandemic.
What You Can Do
These new solutions to the problem at hand are great, and I’m sure they will keep on coming in. But if the use of face masks has hindered your ability to communicate, the first step is to identify whether you are suffering from hearing loss.
There are ways to prevent hearing loss from worsening as well as a range of treatment options to help you regain what you have lost.
In the Meantime
Some tips below may help you get along until your initial appointment arrives:
- Add closed captioning when you watch TV.
- Send texts to people instead of calling them on the phone.
- Masks are often better than scarves as it won’t block the ear, see if you can find a clear one or contact us to let us help you do just that.
- Further, you can wear masks that won’t interfere with any kind of hearing device, including using pull cords on a tie-mask or eyeglass straps on your glasses.
Once you’ve realized that the hearing loss is impacting your life daily, it’s essential to reach out for help.
If you or a loved one have been struggling or complaining that others are mumbling, let us help.
You can schedule a comprehensive hearing assessment with an audiologist at Jacobs Audiology. We have new safety procedures following the CDC guidelines to keep you, other patients, and our staff safe.
Additionally, we offer remote support should you wish not to visit the clinic in-person during this time.