Based on CDC recommendations, the use of face masks has become part of our new daily routine. While we understand the necessity of face masks for public health, for the millions of Americans with hearing loss, face masks can add to communication challenges.
Visual cues from body language and lip reading are part of normal communication. However, with a hearing impairment, the visual cues obtained from lip reading are vital for speech understanding. Many of us do not realize how much we rely on those cues until we don’t have access to them. Communicating with others can become much more difficult when face masks obscure lip-reading cues.
Face masks also muffle speech. Coupled with social distancing guidelines of putting six feet between yourself and others, speech levels are reduced, and speech can be difficult to understand clearly.
At the very least, these changes to our daily communication can be mentally taxing for those with hearing loss, as more cognitive resources must be diverted to listening.
So, what can we do to make communication easier?
- Reduce background noise in the environment as much as possible. If possible, move to a quiet location.
- Advise others to speak slower and more clearly, rather than shouting.
- If you have a hearing aid, wear it! Masks that tie behind the head can sometimes be more comfortable for hearing aid users to wear.
- Consider downloading a speech to text app on your smart phone to ensure that you are not missing out on important information.
- If you have not had a hearing evaluation, schedule one. Our audiologists can recommend personalized options that can allow you to communicate easier!
Katie McGee, Au.D.,CCC-A