Updated: Nov 16, 2020
By Dr. Todd Decker
This is a common question we all ask as we learn to communicate together while wearing the appropriate face mask protection during this Covid time. We have lost our ability to rely on facial expressions to help with communication at the cashier, physician’s office, lunch with friends (at a safe distance) or many other public places. Our speech is now unclear for others, due to speaking through the mask, causing all of us to have to repeat a lot more often. These are just a few challenges we are facing with masks as well as the soreness on our ears. But now….. let’s add a hearing impairment. When we have a hearing loss, even with hearing aids, we rely on facial expression and lip reading to provide a more complete communication strategy. If you have ever had a distorted cell phone call where you could not understand the person you were speaking with and had no way of seeing them due to being over the phone, you have experienced what it can be like to have a hearing challenge in this day of face masks. Speech is unclear, faces cannot be seen and then add background noise to an already difficult situation all leads to frustration and our loss of communication freedom. We must continue to wear masks in public for protection but we need to become aware of how we can help others around us be a part of life with this new struggle. Our friends and family with hearing loss need us to adjust in a few new ways: 1. Obtain their attention first before we begin speaking, 2. Reduce noise around us as much as possible, 3. Do not yell through our masks but give the topic of conversation first (shopping, fishing, family, etc) and then speak clearly and distinctly, 4. Slow our speech down and rephrase a sentence they may have misunderstood, 5. Keep eye contact and make sure their hearing aids are worn if they have them and 6. Obtain a clear mask if possible so they can see your lips. As humans, we all want to be a part of life around us especially now with the lack of family visits and going into public. Please take the time to consider who we are speaking to with our masks on and help provide a more caring and positive communication opportunity for them. We all are wanting more smiles!