The use of masks during the COVID-19 pandemic is proving to be essential. However, some people are finding it difficult to hear someone who is speaking to them. The masks may cause words to sound muffled and visual cues, such as lip reading, are impossible. Not only do masks make it difficult to hear and understand those we are communicating with, but the concept of social distancing, and physical space between people, adds to miscommunication and understanding of conversations for many people across the world. Below are some tips and tricks to have better conversations with friends and loved ones, while also employing social distancing behavior. 

  • Face the person you are talking to, even if you are far apart from them.
  • Minimize interfering noises such as crowded public spaces, loud music or distractions from cell phones or other electronics.
  • Use clear speech and avoid words that could be misinterpreted.

The above tips can be greatly beneficial for those with zero to moderate hearing loss. So what about those with moderate to severe hearing loss? Many individuals who suffer from hearing loss utilize hearing aids. These devices are beneficial in everyday settings by helping to recognize changes in acoustics to give the wearer the most effective audible opportunities. If you wear behind-the-ear hearing aids, you will likely encounter problems trying to use a standard mask with elastic ear loops. Here are some suggestions to help avoid tugging at the tubing behind your ear: 

  • Wear a mask with soft fabric ties to relieve the pressure on the ears, instead of elastic
  • Use a special mask extender with buttons or other holders to attach the mask loops onto  the back of the head, instead of the ears

Communication with others is one of the most important aspects of daily life and mask mandates should not limit our ability to interact with others. Local crafters and large companies alike are adapting cotton masks to include a clear shield so that visual cues, such a lip reading, are available to those with hearing loss. If you would like to purchase or make your own transparent mask, a simple search online for “masks for hearing impaired” will lead you in the right direction!