Communicating with Face Masks

Last update on Jun, 17, 2020

In light of the pandemic, there are a few ways that people are protecting themselves, 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.

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. 

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 guidlines while also communicationg effectively?”

Tips for better communication with a face mask

Wear a communicator 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 it also allows you to lip-read and allows others to as well.

Speak slowly and enunciate

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

Rephrase when asked to repeat something

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.

Choose a quiet environment

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. 

While you may not have hearing loss, it can greatly help others if you follow any number of the items listed. Be sure to follow social distancing guidelines by staying at least 6 feet away from others if you are going to lower your mask or not wear one. 

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