Wearing a mask makes it harder for people who are deaf or hard of hearing to communicate.
Masks, especially N95’s, tend to muffle a person’s speech and coupled with the 6-foot social distancing rule, make life miserable for people who have hearing issues. According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, approximately 48 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss. For them, the pandemic offers daily challenges. Even going to the grocery store can be frustrating when you can’t understand what people are saying.
According to Today, simple efforts can facilitate communication. Wearing a clear mask or shield to make it easier to lip read. Although not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in medical settings, clear masks are fine in public. And while not everyone reads lips, it can certainly help those who do.
AARP points out that masks can be bothersome for those who wear hearing aids. The elastic bands that go over the ear can get in the way of hearing aid tubes and removing the mask can dislodge the aid altogether. The organization suggests using a mask with cloth ties instead of elastic bands to secure it to the head.
Face people directly and make eye contact. According to The Conversation, you should also speak more carefully and slowly to make it easier for listeners to understand your words.
Ask others to repeat back what you have said to ensure they grasped your meaning. This is especially important if you are seeking medical advice from a healthcare professional.
Ask the hard-of-hearing person, “How can I best communicate with you” According to The Conversation, there are options such as speech-to-text or sign language that can be helpful.
Have a pen and pencil in hand. Reema Bogin, a government lawyer who has a condition in which tumors grow on her auditory nerves, told Today that she always carries a pen and paper with her along with her cell phone in case she needs to have someone write something down or transcribe so that she can “hear.”
But the main thing to help those who are hearing challenged, she said, is be kind.
“Patience is number one,” said Bogin.
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