TUESDAY July 21, 2020 (HealthDay News)

As the debate over face masks continues, few can realize how coatings make it difficult for 48 million Americans hearing loss to communicate with others.

Masks can dampen the sound, making it more difficult to understand speech and higher voices; prevent the ability to read lips and see facial expressions, which help people with hearing loss better understand what they are hearing; and be uncomfortable for people with hearing cochlear aids or implants, say hearing experts.

“The widespread use of masks at this critical moment of the pandemic is the key to protecting public health, but we want to make everyone aware that masks can represent a communicative challenge for anyone, especially deaf or hearing problems“said Theresa Rodgers, president of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).

“By taking some basic steps, everyone can do their part to ensure that people with hearing impairments are able to communicate better in an environment where masks are needed,” he added in an ASHA news release.

Here are some tips for improving communication when wearing a mask and talking to someone hearing loss:

  • Consider using a mask with a clear panel over your mouth or using a clear visor, if applicable.
  • Make sure you have the other person’s attention before you speak, face the person directly, and make sure that nothing blocks your view. Move to a quiet place if you can.
  • Speak a little louder (but don’t scream) and a little slower. Use your hands and body language to communicate. Ask the person if they understood you. If not, say it differently or write it down.
  • If you are talking to someone new, ask if there is anything you can do to make communication easier for both of you.

For people with hearing aids or cochlear implants, here are some tips for improving comfort when wearing a mask:

  • Protect your device with wig tape or other non-harmful material, such as a fabric band.
  • Use a mask extension button to attach it behind your head instead of wrapping the mask over your ears.
  • Remove the mask in a safe place, then check your device to make sure it works.
  • Use a mask that has four strings instead of ear rings.

– Robert Preidt

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SOURCE: American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, press release, July 9, 2020

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