One of the only ways we will stop the surge and make it through the COVID-19 pandemic is through the use of masks. While masks are crucial for public health, they can negatively impact communication, especially for those with hearing loss.
Below are some tips to help you hear better while doing your part and wearing a mask.
Purchase a Clear Mask.
On July 14, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention declared face coverings a “critical tool” for fighting the surge in COVID-19 cases throughout the country. Unfortunately for those with hearing loss, cloth face coverings hide facial expressions and make lip reading, a skill many rely on, practically impossible.
A clear mask may be the solution. One Baltimore company has been producing masks with a transparent panel since 2017. Their masks have earned FDA clearance, confirming their masks are “substantially equivalent” to a medical-grade surgical mask used by hospitals and other front-line workers.
After three years of research, the team at ClearMask developed a clear material that wouldn’t fog up.
While ClearMark is currently only supplying masks to governments, hospitals and commercial clients, a homemade version of their product is suitable in most everyday situations according to David Aronoff, director of infectious disease at the Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology and Inflammation.
“We know that the virus cannot penetrate plastic or solid materials, so see-through masks provide potentially a great option for balancing infection prevention with the desire to be able to see somebody’s mouth move,” Aronoff said.
Homemade versions are available online or can be made by cutting a hole out of a regular cloth mask and attaching clear plastic.
Advocate for Yourself
Sometimes you need to ask for exactly what you need. If someone is talking and you cannot hear them, instead of simply asking them to repeat what they said, try telling them you need them to speak “lower, slower and louder.” When speaking louder, our natural inclination is to speak in a higher pitch. This does not help, as most people with hearing loss have trouble with high-frequency tones.
A woman in Columbus, Ohio is taking to wearing buttons when she goes out, alerting others of her hearing loss. The buttons read:
- Please be patient. I’m hard of hearing.
- Your mask means I can’t read your lips. Please speak up.
- Hard of hearing. Please keep mask on and speak up.
Her buttons and others like them can be purchased online.
Face Your Conversation Partner
Facing the person you are talking to can help remove additional background noise, which can be a big challenge for those with hearing loss. When possible, speak to one person at a time, rather than to a large group. This ensures you can focus on what they are saying.
Getting someone’s attention by saying their name, even if it is from a name tag is helpful. This makes sure you have their full attention.
To learn more about improving your communication and hearing during this global pandemic, contact the hearing experts at Gulf Coast Audiology.