Hearing loss can make it hard to communicate. You may have a difficult time hearing what’s being said, or mishear words or phrases. Face masks worn in response to the COVID-19 pandemic can make it more challenging to hear.
A recent survey by the Hearing Loss Association of America and Cochlear found that 95% of those with hearing loss said that face masks make it harder to communicate. The survey also revealed that 46% of respondents noticed changes in their mental health, including feeling anxious, isolated, or lonely.
If you or a loved one has hearing loss, here are a few tips to ease communication with hearing loss.
Why Do Masks Inhibit Communication?
Hearing what’s being said is only part of communicating. We also rely on our vision to give us clues about what people are thinking or feeling. Facial expressions, smiles, and frowns can cue us into what’s being said. People with hearing loss also use lip reading to help catch any words they might have a harder time hearing. Face masks can:
- Block facial expressions.
- Muffle sounds, making it harder to hear what’s been said.
- Cause people to shout, distorting sounds even more.
- Jostle Behind-the-Ear or Receiver-in-Canal hearing aids that sit behind the ear, disrupting sound quality.
How to Improve Mask Comfort
If part of your hearing aids sits behind your ear, the first step to communicating while wearing a face mask is to make your mask more comfortable. You don’t want the ear loops on your mask to interfere with your devices or make it harder to hear.
You can easily modify your face mask to fit more comfortably. Try these tips:
- Find a face mask with ties rather than ear loops. You can secure your mask by tying your mask behind your head.
- Use hair clips to attach your face mask loops to your head rather than looping them behind your ears.
- Use a button extender to attach the ear loops to a band at the back of your head.
These options may take a few extra seconds to adjust, so you may want to secure your facemask before you leave home.
Physical Distancing Adds to the Challenge
Face masks aren’t the only thing that’s making it harder to hear. As well as wearing face masks, public health officials request that we practice social distancing. The recommended distance is 6 feet. Standing further away, or speaking to someone through a plastic barrier, makes it much more difficult to hear what’s being said. In fact, even adults with normal hearing sometimes complain that it’s more difficult to hear. Some challenges include:
- Background noise that can be louder than the voice 6ft away.
- You can’t turn your good ear towards the speaker, or lean closer.
- It’s harder to hear the tone of the speaker’s voice, or read their facial expression.
Tips to Ease Communication
Communication may be harder, but there are ways you can ease communication when wearing a face mask! Try these top tips to ease communication when distancing and wearing a face mask:
- Get their attention. Don’t start talking until you’re sure the person you’re talking to is listening.
- Face them. When you’re facing each other, it will be easier to make out what’s being said, and the sound of your voice will carry better.
- Remove obstacles. Make sure there aren’t obstacles in the way that might make it harder to see their face.
- Pick a quiet spot. If you can, have the conversation away from the noise. Dealing with background noise will make it much harder to hear.
- Speak up. You don’t want to yell, but try to speak a bit louder than usual so your voice will carry through your mask and across the 6ft between you.
- Use hand gestures. You can use body language like hand gestures and facial expressions to make sure you are understood.
Treat Your Hearing Loss
Do you have hearing loss? If you can’t hear clearly, wearing face masks will make it very clear that you have a hard time hearing. Our top tip is to treat your hearing loss! With quality hearing aids, you’ll have an easier time communicating, even when wearing a face mask. Visit us today to find out more about how hearing aids can help you hear.