FACE MASKS AND HEARING LOSS
Communicating with someone wearing a mask is challenging and difficult.
A study published by the Hearing Review in April 2020 found that masks can reduce the speech signal between 3 to 12 decibels depending on the type of mask used. A simple mask can lower speech by 3-4 db. N95 masks can degrade the speech signal by almost 12 decibels. The decrease in speech signal and absence of visual cues from wearing masks plus the presence of room noise are significant enough to cause speech to be unintelligible for many, especially for someone who is hard of hearing.
Here are some suggestions on how to communicate while wearing a mask to someone with a hearing loss:
• Do not shout! Speak slowly and clearly instead.
• Rephrase remarks if not understood instead of repeating what was said.
• Reduce noise to a minimum.
• Take turns speaking.
• Do not talk while walking.
Here are some suggestions on how to improve understanding speech for someone who has a hearing loss:
• If you have hearing aids, wear them.
• Ask your audiologist to create a “mask program”. This is a separate program on your hearing aids dedicated to people wearing masks.
• Use Assistive listening devices (ALDs) such as a remote microphone with your hearing aids or personal listening amplifier for those who do not wear hearing aids.
• Be Proactive. It is ok to say, I did not understand what you said. Please repeat slowly.
When life gives us lemons, let us make lemonades!