It has been a few months since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have strongly recommended that all Americans wear a face covering when they are out in public.
Every hospital in the country is assuming that anyone who enters their doors may potentially be a COVID-19 case, so wearing a mask is required and patients are being asked to arrive alone.
These new safety measures are making communication more complicated for the 60 million Americans who have some range of hearing loss from mild to severe or deafness in one of both ears.
Most people who experience hearing loss have never had a hearing test and do not wear hearing aids. This is especially true among individuals who are affected by inequality when it comes to healthcare. For example, only about 5 percent of Hispanic/Latino adults who experience hearing loss actually use hearing aids.
The Problems with Face Masks when it comes to Speech and Hearing
Whether you realize it or not, our brains are meant to utilize visual cues. In order to fully comprehend speech, you need to watch a person’s lips move as they speak. Wearing a mask that covers the mouth blocks out those visual cues.
Face masks muffle speech sounds. Wearing a mask over your hearing aids can knock off your devices. If you also wear eyeglasses, your ears are doing a lot of heavy lifting just so that you can see, hear, and safely breathe.
The social distancing rules of remaining 6 feet apart can also make the ability to hear others and comprehend speech very difficult.
When there is too much distance between people, it becomes more challenging to hear. Moving further apart causes additional stress and strains to hear that those with hearing loss already deal with.
Hearing Background Noises
Background noise, especially in hospitals, makes it difficult to hear and comprehend important information. Your memory becomes disorganized, even if you heard what was just said.
Noise levels were measured in a Veterans hospital located in Portland, OR. Researchers recorded background noises from medical and surgical wards and also tested patients who were acutely ill.
In the best circumstances that have little noise, patients who had mild to moderate hearing loss could only remember 58% of important words. This lowered down to 30% of being able to recall important words at the highest levels of hospital noise that was tested. Each of these interruptions may result in serious ramifications.
Hearing Loss that Goes Undiagnosed
In these situations, people who experience hidden or undiagnosed hearing loss may be exposed if their coping strategies begin to fail.
In this current situation, anyone who has difficulty hearing or cannot hear at all, may put their life or the life of their loved ones at risk. If you cannot accurately hear recommendations from your healthcare provider, learn about services that are available so that you can safely navigate through your life.
This is helpful advice for patients in hospitals, nursing homes or in quarantine, who are isolated without the help of family or friends.
Tips to Effectively Communicate
Choose how You Want to Communicate
Using real-time captioning can greatly improve communication access via online education, telehealth and virtual meetings.
Let others know what your best means of communication. Use different systems of communication. If you have difficulty understanding when others talk, ask them to rephrase what they said, write down the message on paper or through a text message in the notes section of your smartphone. Use real-time captions or other assistive listening technologies. If you use ASL, certified interpreters can be accessed through video relays.
Communicate in a quiet environment that doesn’t have a lot of distracting background noise. If the person has a clear face mask or protective face shield, ask them to wear it so that you can read visual cues or read lips.
If you have a hearing and visual impairment, bring a place card with your name and condition listed on it, along with ways to communicate with others. Make sure you wear your hearing aids, eyeglasses or contact lenses.
Follow these recommendations to help you navigate a little easier and more effectively through these uncertain times.
If you, or a loved one, are experiencing hearing loss please contact us at Pure Sound Hearing Aids for a free hearing test and consultation. We offer a variety of hearing aid solutions that can be individually programmed for your specific needs.
Please be aware that Pure Sound services will only be available by appointment and for essential visits at this time. Essential visits include all appointments that require new hearing aid fittings, repairs and re-fittings. If you need hearing aid service, we ask that you please wait in your car, while wearing your mask, and place your hearing aids in a clean zip lock bag. A staff member from our office will come to your car to get them. If you are having any problems with your hearing aids, or need supplies for your hearing aids, please call us before visiting one of our offices.