Face masks are now required in many public places in Nevada to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. For people who experience hearing loss, face masks add additional challenges. Masks pose three problems for patients with hearing loss: you cannot gain any cues from lipreading, the voice of the person speaking is quiet and distorted, plus, if you wear an over-the-ear hearing device, you may knock if off your ear when taking your mask off.
Face Masks and Lip Reading
As mentioned above, those with hearing impairments often read lips. Not only is sound muffled by face masks, but the added ability to lipread is removed when face masks are worn. In addition to circumstantial noise, visual cues can be lost and the speech can become almost unrecognizable to those with hearing loss. Not only are lips covered by face masks, but facial expressions are also hindered.
With lip reading taken out of the equation, it is important for people with hearing loss to change their communication strategies. First, disclose your hearing impairment. It will be easier to try and communicate with others if they have an understanding, plus they may be willing to speak louder and with better enunciation. Next, anticipate potential questions that may come up. If you know what may be asked, you can better listen for those words. Third, observe cues from eyes and eyebrows. Although some facial expressions are covered, you can still learn a lot about tone and context from eye expressions. Lastly, repeat what you heard. To prevent misunderstandings, repeat back information for confirmation.
Speaking to People with Hearing Loss
Clear masks are an alternative to the fabric face masks many are wearing today. These clear masks offer a solution for those who may benefit from seeing or reading lips. These clear masks are available online at places including https://www.faceviewmask.com/ and https://safenclear.com/.
If you don’t have a lip-reading-friendly mask, it is still important to keep your mask on while talking to people with hearing loss. Fabric masks are most effective at preventing the person wearing the mask from spreading germs found in respiratory droplets. An experiment using high-speed video found that hundreds of droplets ranging from 20 to 500 micrometers were generated when saying a simple phrase, but that nearly all these droplets were blocked when the mouth was covered by a damp washcloth. This means that rather than helping the person you are trying to speak with, you could compromise their health if you remove your mask.
Tips for Wearing a Face Mask With Hearing Aids
Another issue hearing aid wearers struggle with while wearing face masks is the ear loops tend to pull on hearing aids. There’s still no perfect solution to remove your face mask without knocking over-the-ear hearing aids off. Although, trying a face mask that goes around your head instead of over your ears may help!
If you can’t find a face mask that goes over your head, you can try sewing two buttons onto a piece of ribbon. Attach your mask straps to the buttons behind your head, rather than behind your ears. This will prevent the straps from resting on your over-the-ear hearing aids and keep them in place. This can also be done with a headband versus a piece of ribbon.
Ribbons and headbands may not be your style, so using tools as simple as an s-hook can work to hold the mask straps without having to rest them on your ears.
If you do knock your hearing aid off when you remove your face mask, don’t panic. First, check the device for any cracks. If you believe your device has been damaged, contact our office to schedule an appointment. If you’ve lost your device, some smartphones have the ability to help you find your hearing aid with the “Find my Hearing Aid” feature. As long as your hearing aid is charged, you should be able to locate it.
Improve Your Hearing with a Face Mask
- While wearing your face mask, you may notice that your hearing is different with your hearing aid. We recommend the following to improve your hearing while wearing your mask:
- Adjust your hearing aid volume: sometimes a simple adjustment can make all the difference.
- Phone options: double check that your hearing aids are “made for iPhone” or phone the device you are syncing them to.
- Consider an assistive listening device: a remote microphone or other device may drastically improve your hearing. Check with your audiologist to see if this device would be a good fit for you.
Book a Consultation
To book a hearing aid consultation or to see if our team can help you find the best way to improve your hearing while wearing a face mask, please give us a call to schedule an appointment at one of our three locations.