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Face Masks, Hearing Loss and Hearing Aids—What You Need to Know

While many areas around the country have begun to reopen and lift stay-at-home orders put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you should still take precautions to protect your health and that of your family. The CDC recommends that you continue following basic guidelines like washing your hands (thoroughly!), not touching your face, and staying home if you don’t feel well.
One guideline, however, can create challenges for people with hearing loss: the recommendation (or requirement, in some areas) to wear a face covering in public settings. This can be difficult for those with hearing loss for several reasons.
First, if you use hearing aids, the elastic bands of the face mask may interfere with your hearing devices and could tug on them while you are wearing the face mask. You may also find that removing your face mask also pulls out your hearing aids.
Second, it’s more difficult to understand someone who is wearing a face mask. This is especially true if you have hearing loss and have learned to rely on lip-reading or facial cues to aid in your understanding. The face mask can also muffle and distort speech.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to make it easier to effectively communicate while still wearing a face mask to protect yourself and others.
How to wear a face mask with hearing aids:

  • Remove your mask carefully. This will decrease the chance of yanking out your hearing aids. Move slowly as you remove your mask so that if your hearing aids are dislodged, you can easily catch them and reinsert them.
  • Try using a mask with fabric ties instead of elastic loops. The ties can be adjusted and loosened to avoid interfering with your hearing aids.
  • Try out a mask holder. These are worn near the back of the head and hold the ties or loops of the face mask. Using a mask holder may reduce your mask’s interference with your hearing aids.
  • Speak with your hearing professional. They may have tips on how to make it easier and more comfortable to wear a face mask with hearing aids.

How to communicate with someone with hearing loss while wearing a face mask:

  • Speak clearly and slowly. Try to enunciate your words. Do not yell, as this can be painful for someone with hearing loss. If the person does not understand what you say, try rephrasing it rather than repeating the same misunderstood sentence.
  • Reduce background noise as much as possible. Make sure you have the attention of the person you are speaking to.
  • If the person uses hearing aids, make sure they are wearing them and the devices are turned on.
  • Take turns while speaking. Do not allow more than one person to speak at a time.
  • Use body language and eye contact to further express yourself.
  • Consider using a portable hearing aid amplifier.
  • If possible, use a clear plastic face covering. This enables the person with hearing loss to see your mouth while you are speaking and can improve their understanding.

These simple tips can go a long way in helping a person with hearing loss better communicate with those wearing face masks. Whether you have hearing loss or you know someone who does, be patient with yourself and others as we all strive to protect ourselves and navigate our new normal.
For more information about how to use a face mask with hearing aids, or how to more effectively communicate while wearing a face covering, we welcome you to contact our hearing practice today. We look forward to serving you!

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6 Simple Video Conferencing Tips for Those with Hearing Loss

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a new way of life that affects all of us. Most states around the US have issued stay-at-home orders, allowing you to venture out for only a few specific reasons. Because of this, you may now find yourself working at home (or attending classes at home, if you are a student) and trying to remain connected with loved ones virtually.
While working from home has its benefits (like no commute and all-day access to the kitchen), it certainly has its drawbacks, too. This is especially true for those with hearing loss, who now find themselves trying to navigate video conferencing and other work-from-home challenges.
If you have hearing loss, however, don’t despair! You can successfully work from home. All it takes is a few tips to make things a bit easier:

  1. Advocate for yourself.
    Be sure to let your team members know that you have hearing loss. If you are struggling to hear or understand during a video call, be sure to make them aware. Give tips for what they can do to make it easier for you to effectively understand and participate.
  2. Try out different communication techniques.
    If one certain type of communication is especially challenging, don’t be afraid to suggest an alternative. Experiment with video conferencing, phone calls, text chats, and more. Even using a pen and paper or a whiteboard can be helpful!
  3. Use headphones with a microphone and noise-canceling technology.
    If you and everyone on your team use a headset with a microphone, the sound quality will be better and clearer for all involved. This can make it easier for those with hearing loss to understand the conversation. Be sure anyone who is not speaking mutes their microphone to reduce background noise.
    Using headphones with noise-canceling technology can also help you better understand the conversation at hand by cutting out background noise.
  4. Make the most of video technology.
    Many people with hearing loss rely on visual cues for context. Because of this, be sure to use video capabilities during work or class conversations. It’s also important to use good lighting (light from the front, not from behind), to not cover your mouth, and to speak clearly. Do not let team members speak over one another, as this is garbled speech is almost impossible to understand if you have hearing loss.
    Many video conferencing programs also offer live captioning. This can be a great asset to those with hearing loss, so be sure the captioning is turned on.
  5. Record video conferences for later reference and provide written follow-up.
    Be sure to record any video meetings and allow your team to access them following the meeting. Those with hearing loss may find it helpful to rewatch any sections they had difficulty understanding. During the video call, be sure to screen share when you are discussing any relevant documents or programs.
    You can also provide clear, written follow-up to your video or voice calls. This can be helpful to reiterate important points and clarify assignments.
  6. Use Bluetooth technology.
    Some hearing aids come with Bluetooth technology that allows them to directly connect with devices like computers, tablets, and smartphones. If your hearing aids are equipped with this technology, you may be able to directly connect your hearing device to your video conferencing app.

Now, the benefits of video conferencing aren’t confined to work and school only. Telehealth appointments also allow you to meet with medical providers—like your hearing healthcare professional—from home as well! These virtual appointments can be an easy, effective way to connect with your hearing professional, ask questions, and receive the care you need.
If you would like to learn more about how to successfully navigate video conferencing with hearing loss, we welcome you to contact our hearing practice today. We are eager to assist you!