Tips for Communicating with a Face Mask
Being deaf or hard of hearing can be challenging. Unfortunately, the current COVID-19 situation can make it harder for a person with impaired hearing to communicate with others, and for others to communicate with them. While we all need to wear a face-covering to help stop the spread, many new challenges are being faced for those with impaired hearing, and many may have had a hard time adapting to this. Managing face masks and hearing loss can be a challenge, especially since those with impaired hearing often rely on seeing a person’s lips and facial cues while speaking. Wearing a mask covers a person’s mouth and a portion of the face, and it can also muffle sound. Plus, with social distancing in effect, a person’s muffled voice can be even harder to make out when you are six feet apart. Luckily, there are solutions available that may help lower the burden.
How to Manage Face Masks and Hearing Loss
• First and foremost, be patient with yourself, and if someone says something that you can’t understand, do not be afraid to ask them to repeat themselves or clarify what they said. Letting the people around you know allows for awareness, making it easier for a person to make the necessary adjustments for communication.
• If you are deaf or hard of hearing, it might be helpful to state that you are hard of hearing on your face mask. While this idea might make some uncomfortable, if you are out at a grocery store, it can be helpful for the employees to know, so they can make sure they are giving you the support you need if needed.
• Keeping a pad and pen/pencil on hand is always an excellent backup method for communication. If all else fails, you can always write it out. While this method isn’t the best for in-depth conversation, if you are looking to keep the conversation short and sweet, this can be an excellent alternative. It is also a good way to limit the amount of frustration and misunderstanding.
• Many may not like the face mask idea, but there are other methods you can implement. If you are out in public, and someone tries to communicate with you, and you are having a hard time understanding them, do not be afraid to use hand gestures. Many people understand general gestures, so be sure to gesture to your ear to help communicate that you are unable to hear what they are saying.
• If you are trying to communicate with a person who is hard of hearing, these tips apply back to you as well. Since many hard of hearing, people rely on visual cues, give a visual cue to let them know you are trying to speak to them. If you often interact with individuals with impaired hearing, it might be worth it to find a mask that has a transparent front so your lips can be read. Don’t be afraid to speak louder when communicating, you don’t need to yell, but speaking louder than usual can help make up for the face mask muffling your voice.