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Hearing aids and face masks: How to communicate effectively

Last update on Jun, 15, 2021

In light of the pandemic, there are a few common ways that people are still protecting themselves as we start to recover, including washing their hands more, social distancing and wearing face masks. The day-to-day can already be difficult if you’re struggling with hearing loss, but it can be even more challenging with all of these health precautions. If you can't understand the conversation, hearing aids may be able to help. Here's what you need to know about wearing hearing aids and a face mask. This information can be helpful not only for those wearing hearing aids, but also those close to them.  

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Face masks can impede communication

The CDC recommends that you wear a face mask if you can, but these can get in the way of communication. Masks cover the region between the nose and mouth to minimize the spread of the virus. They protect both you and others because they significantly reduce the chances of the virus spreading.

According to a survey completed by the Hearing Health Foundation, 87% of their 625 responses are experiencing difficulty communicating at this time. These face masks cover roughly half of your face, making it tricky for others to read non-verbal cues. To make matters more difficult, if you rely on lip-reading, face masks make it much more difficult to navigate daily conversations. Of those in the survey that said that they are experiencing difficulty communicating at this time, 85% said that the inability to read lips is a problem. Some face masks, like the N95, can impact our sound level and the frequencies of our speech. 

Woman wearing face mask

As you can see, while face masks protect our health, they also create a new communication barrier for those with hearing loss. You may be asking yourself, “How do I follow health guidelines while also communicating effectively?”

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Tips for better communication with a face mask

Some people have been wearing “communicator masks,” which are masks with a clear panel in the front. This not only protects you and others, but communicator masks also allow you to lip-read and allows others to as well.

As you normally would when communicating with someone with hearing loss, speaking slowly and enunciating will help to improve communication. 

It may help if you rephrase what you said when asked to repeat. Certain sounds are harder to catch or distinguish, so rephrasing what you said may help.

Individuals with hearing loss often experience trouble hearing with background noise present. Talking in a busy store at peak business hours may be difficult, between the number of people, heavy machinery moving goods and other surrounding noises. Be sure to separate yourselves from the noise to a quieter environment to make it easier to carry your conversation. 

Now, more than ever, it’s important to connect with the world around you. And for hearing aid wearers, it’s essential to not feel limited by wearing face masks or social distancing.

At Miracle-Ear®, we’ve created a custom hearing aid program that makes it easier for hearing aid wearers to hear and understand people who are wearing face masks and social distancing. Mask Mode instantly improves speech clarity in challenging communication situations, such as when wearing face masks, social distancing and in background noise.  

While you may not have hearing loss, it can greatly help masked hearing aid wearers if you follow any number of the communication tips. Be sure to follow social distancing guidelines by staying at least 6 feet away from others if you are going to lower your mask. 

Contact your local Miracle-Ear for help setting up Mask Mode on your current hearing aids, or to learn about our newest products with even more customization capabilities. 

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