August 28, 2020

For months we’ve been dealing with the effects and the fallout of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19). It seems every day there is a new symptom or consequence of this virus to watch for.

One thing that may be unexpected, and may be something you didn’t think about if you don’t suffer from hearing loss yourself: how masks affect those with hearing loss.

Masks have been recommended to help prevent transmission of Covid-19 by covering the mouth and nose, thereby blocking most of the airborne droplets that are in the air in normal breathing and conversation in a public setting.

There has been a lot of controversy around the effectiveness and safety of public masking of healthy individuals, but one thing that hasn’t been discussed is how masking affects people who are hard of hearing.

As you probably know, people with progressive hearing loss rely on facial cues and lip reading to navigate the world and understand what is being said to them. When everyone has their faces (particularly their mouths) covered, these cues are almost completely obscured, which can make life much more difficult for those who already have trouble with communication due to hearing loss.

There is no shortage of products flooding the market to cater to this sudden need for everyone to have a mask everywhere they go (especially in areas where masking is required).

To address this specific need, some masks have been produced that have a transparent window to make seeing people’s lips easier when they speak. This also serves to restore a bit of human connection through smiles and other facial expressions.

The problem with a see-through mask, however, is that it is either less effective or, if the window is a small plastic square, it will get fogged up with the breath from breathing and talking, and it’s no longer transparent. In addition, most people don’t have these masks, so this is not an effective way for people with hearing loss to understand most people in a public setting.

What can we do to help our friends and family that suffer from hearing loss?

There is no perfect solution but offering understanding and grace to those who are struggling can go a long way during these times that are stressful for everyone.

If you see someone struggling, offer your help and sympathize with their effort.

If you have family or friends that you see often and know they struggle with hearing and communication, make an effort to visit them and offer an ear and some company. Everyone has been isolated, but especially those who live alone or are frustrated in public settings. Regular visits can go a long way in helping your loved ones to know you care and not feel lonely or hopeless.

And don’t forget to keep your annual hearing screenings: it’s important to measure if your hearing is declining so you can take steps to prevent further hearing loss.

Remember that the first step to halting hearing loss and preventing further damage is to recognize your situation. Come in today for a hearing screening and formulate a strategy to train your brain to listen actively and effectively.

Diablo Hearing Services   2301 Camino Ramon, STE 106   San Ramon (925) 394-4646

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