ENT & Audiology News is an award-winning magazine for audiologists and other medical professionals who specialize in the ears, nose, and throat. Based in Edinburgh, Scotland, the organization highlights trends and topics for industry professionals and patients around the world. In a recent podcast, two industry experts weighed in on the challenges that COVID-19 presents to people who are experiencing hearing loss.
Along with some insights from the Beltone team of hearing care professionals, here are some challenges and solutions from the podcast and its associated article.
- Wearing masks prohibits lip reading.
Many people who experience hearing loss rely on lip reading (or speech reading) as a singular means of communication. Of course, typical facemasks make it impossible to read lips, thereby eliminating the opportunity to do so. A simple solution to this problem would be to create a transparent mask, and yes, such masks do exist. However, they are not as accessible as typical face coverings.
Are you in need of a transparent facemask? At Beltone, we recommend “clear mask,” which can be found at theclearmask.com.
Greg Watson says: “Not being able to watch a person’s lips for visual cues can limit a person with hearing impairment from enjoying everyday conversation.”
Transparent face shields are also a potential solution, but studies have shown that they are less effective at preventing the spread of aerosols from coughing.
- Public barriers complicate communication.
If you go to the supermarket or drugstore, you’ll probably have to speak with someone who is both wearing a mask and standing behind a clear partition. For someone who is experiencing hearing loss, these additional barriers can further complicate an already convoluted situation. As the article points out, when a person is forced to concentrate harder on what is being said, their capacity to process the information diminishes, which can cause a communication breakdown.
Greg Watson says: “Ask the person you are attempting to communicate with to slow down their speech and increase the volume of their voice. If communication is still difficult, you can ask them to write down any important information.”
- Social distancing can exacerbate social withdrawal.
As we’ve discussed in previous Beltone blogs, some people who experience hearing loss have a tendency to remove themselves from social situations. This can occur for any number of reasons, such as embarrassment or a general sense of helplessness. It’s important to remember, though, that even though these are natural responses to hearing loss, they can pose potential health risks if not properly handled. To prevent yourself or others from isolation, depression, anxiety, and even an increased risk of dementia—especially as they relate to the many difficulties set forth by COVID-10—consider the following tips to improve the situation and empower yourself or others.
- Ask the person you’re speaking with to please reduce as much background noise as possible.
- If that is not possible, move to a quieter location.
- Ask the person you’re speaking with to talk slowly.
- Discourage people from shouting at you.
- If you have a hearing aid, please wear it.
- If you’re in need of a new hearing aid, speak with a hearing care professional about your options as soon as possible.
- Download a hearing aid app on your smartphone or mobile device. We recommend HearMax, which amplifies sounds to improve speech.
Greg Watson says: “Address your hearing needs ASAP. It is much easier to regain your hearing when hearing loss is detected early. There is generally a positive solution that will increase your ability to hear more effectively.”
At Beltone of WNY, we’re here to help you enhance your hearing health and happiness. If you are in need of assistance, please schedule a hearing exam today or visit any of our four convenient locations. And don’t forget that you can conduct a free online hearing test at any time. We wish you the best and hope to see you soon!