The pandemic has brought about challenges for us all, but people with hearing loss experience their own unique difficulties.
We’re all wearing masks to keep ourselves and others safe, but where does that leave the hearing impaired?
Masks make speaking and hearing more challenging. Face coverings make it impossible to read lips. Voices are muffled and unclear, made even quieter and harder to understand.
Masks also take away our ability to read the expressions on others’ faces. We process a lot of information during interactions with people based on their facial expressions; without this, it can be difficult to interpret what we’re seeing.
Plus, anyone who has worn a hearing aid knows that putting a mask on and taking one-off is no easy task. The devices are easy to dislodge and risk falling out.
Respecting physical distancing requirements can also make it harder than usual to follow a conversation. If we’re straining to hear someone who is outside of our “bubble”, for instance, we can’t move closer toward them to help us hear better because of social distancing guidelines.
“One thing that COVID-19 has shown us is hearing is more important than ever.”
“One thing that COVID-19 has shown us is hearing is more important than ever,” says Raphael Tayou of HearingLife Canada. “Any degree of hearing loss can create significant challenges for people as they begin to interact more with family, friends, and our frontline workers. If hearing loss was an issue and you were relying on visual cues to overcome it, you can’t ignore it anymore. It must be addressed.”
The good news is you don’t have to accept hardship as a way of life. For those with hearing loss, there are ways you can reduce the social and physical impacts.
The first step is booking a free hearing test. With the province opening up, Ontario hearing clinics are now able to safely address patient needs on a by-appointment basis. This is good news for the 1 in 5 Canadian adults who suffer from at least mild hearing loss.
“Each HearingLife clinic has implemented several safety protocols,” says Tayou. “These include limiting the number of clients in the clinic at any given time, sanitizing medical equipment and common areas between each appointment, ensuring all staff wear protective gear and provide hand sanitizer at all stages of your visit, as well as conducting COVID-19 pre-screening by phone before every appointment.”
People experiencing hearing loss in Ontario can also take advantage of special offers like the opportunity to book a free trial of the latest hearing aid technology.
HearingLife has some helpful tips on how you can stay safe—and comfortable—while wearing a hearing aid and a mask:
- Consider a mask that ties behind the head, rather than one that wraps around your ears.
- Use a mask extender. It holds your mask in place at the back of your head using buttons or other fasteners.
- Attach your over-the-ear hearing aid to your glasses using a small elastic band to keep them in place.
- Every time you put on or remove a mask, be careful and check your hearing devices.