Face masks are now required in many public places to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. For people with hearing loss, though, this may be easier said than done.That’s because face masks add extra challenges for people with hearing impairments:
- It’s harder to understand people when they’re speaking to you with a mask on their face.
- If you wear hearing aids, the ear loops may tug on your hearing aids and cause other problems.
Wearing a mask with hearing aidsIf you wear behind-the-ear hearing aids, you will likely encounter some problems trying to wear a standard face mask with elastic ear loops. The ear loops may tug at the tubing that connects the hearing aid to the speaker that sits in your ear (known as the dome). You also may inadvertently pull your hearing aids out and drop them when removing your mask. What’s a hearing aid wearer to do?Because there are so many types of hearing aids, we recommend you first reach out to your hearing care provider who may have solutions they’ve come up with when talking to other patients. Also, we’ve seen lots of creative workarounds floating around out there, including:
- Wearing a mask with soft fabric ties to relieve the pressure on the ears, instead of elastic
- Using a special mask extender with buttons or other holders to attach the mask loops onto, on the back of the head, instead of the ears (many medical practitioners now use these, since they have to wear tight-fitting masks all day)
- Using simple tools like plastic s-hooks to loop the mask onto, instead of your ears
Hearing and understanding people when wearing a maskPeople with hearing loss also face challenges when trying to listen to someone who is wearing a mask. In medical settings, where stress is running high and provider-to-patient communication is tantamount, this can lead to frustrating scenarios on both sides.Masks pose two obvious problems for patients with hearing loss: the patient cannot gain any cues from lipreading, and the voice of the healthcare provider is attenuated and distorted.When combined with the clamor in many hospitals—and the lack of visual cues because the wearer’s mask is blocked,—speech could be close to unintelligible for many hospitalized people with hearing loss.Below is a checklist for talking to people with hearing loss:
- Reduce the room’s noise and get the person’s attention
- Ask people to speak slowly and clearly
- Ask others not to shout
- Make sure you are using your hearing aids if you have them
- Ask people to rephrase remarks if not understood