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Face Masks Pose Problem for Those with Hearing Loss

While the CDC urges people to wear face masks in public to stay safe, doing so poses some challenges for those with hearing loss. The first challenge is that face masks muffle voices and block the mouth so lip-reading is impossible. The second challenge is that face masks loop around the ears and get in the way of some models of hearing aids. This article provides some tips for navigating the world during the age of face masks.

Tips for Wearing a Mask & Hearing Aids

Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids cause issues when paired with a face mask that has standard elastic ear loops. The ear loops may pull at the tubing that connects the hearing aid to the speaker in your ear, and you may accidentally pull out your hearing aids when trying to remove the face mask.

To remedy these issues, you can:

  1. Wear a mask with soft fabric ties instead of elastic to relieve pressure on the ears.

  2. Use a mask extender so you can attach the loops around the back of your head rather than behind the ears.

  3. Use simple tools like plastic s-hooks to attach your face mask.

Tips for Communicating When Wearing a Face Mask

According to a study published in the Hearing Review, “Masks pose two obvious problems for patients with hearing loss: the patient cannot gain any cues from lipreading, and the voice of the [speaker] is attenuated [quiet] and distorted.”

While the burden of communication should not follow solely on the person with hearing loss, you may find yourself in situations where you need to advocate for yourself in order for your communication needs to be met. Whether you have hearing loss or you need to communicate with a person who has hearing loss, the following tips may help when wearing face masks:

  1. Try to talk in a quiet space, either by reducing background noise (if possible) or moving to a more private area.

  2. Speak slowly and clearly, but do not shout.

  3. Rephrase when not understood.

  4. Take turns when speaking; do not interrupt one another.

  5. Talk while standing still rather than while walking.

  6. Face each other directly (especially if standing six feet away, per CDC guidelines).

  7. Obtain a mask with a clear plastic window.

For more information about effective communication or to schedule an appointment with an audiologist, contact Topeka ENT today.

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