COVID-19 has brought fear and change to our lives. With this change, the use of face masks has become common, and has created many difficulties for people with a hearing impairment.
People with a hearing impairment rely on different communication strategies to understand the conversation. Those strategies include using facial cues and lip reading, which can be hard to do with a face mask.
Take these strategies away, and the hearing-impaired struggle to understand what is being said. There are a few tips that we can use when trying to communicate effectively while wearing a mask.
- First and foremost, do not remove your mask to speak. It is there to protect yourself and others.
- Do not yell. Speaking slightly elevated, but in a natural tone, is best for understanding. Do not overenunciate your words.
- Slow down. Speaking too fast (with or without the mask) makes understanding difficult.
- If your message is not received well, try rephrasing it, rather than repeating the words that were not understood.
- Body language is an important communication tool. Using gestures and pointing can help fill in the missing pieces.
- Get their attention before speaking. Sometimes, saying a person’s name before talking to them helps them become more attentive to the conversation.
- Be mindful of your environment. Too much background noise can cause problems with clarity and understanding.
- If you are hearing-impaired, try asking for repetition if you did not understand the message. In these trying times, it is important to be your own advocate! Be persistent.
- Prevent the loss of your hearing devices by making sure you do not pull your mask on and off too quickly. Always make sure your devices are in place and secure.
- If all else fails, you can use paper and pen, or your smartphone, to write out the message.
Many people with hearing impairment wear hearing devices. While those devices may help in noisy situations, they do not always do a good job at helping with the muffled speech that a mask creates. The hearing-impaired cannot rely on the devices alone to help them understand. Using the devices, together with these communication tips, can help compensate for the loss of facial cues and lip reading.
By Dr. Haiden Nunn, contributing writer and provider at North Georgia Audiology & Hearing Aid Center.