These days, no outfit is complete without adding a face mask. What a difference a year makes! Face coverings have become compulsory by law in Ireland when out and about, but while face masks serve as a barrier to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, unfortunately they have also become an additional communication barrier for the deaf and, hard of hearing community.
In this blog, we’re going to highlight these challenges face masks are posing as well as outline some tips for the general public to help overcome this barrier.
PRIMARY METHODS OF COMMUNICATION HAVE DISAPPEARED
The deaf and hard of hearing community have two main methods of daily communication when out and about which they primarily rely on. The first is lipreading, while the second is by facial expressions. Unfortunately, due to the introduction of face masks, both these methods cannot be used anymore which is clearly a substantial challenge to this community.
NOT EVERYONE WILL OR CAN ACCOMMODATE
We have seen manufacturers produce face masks for the deaf and hard of hearing community with clear windows on the mask around the mouth. This is amazing and manufacturers who produce these should be commended, however, unfortunately, it’s only a very small percentage of the general public will wear this or even has access to these masks. Many also believe these masks are exclusively for individuals with hearing difficulties rather than for the general population even though it’s really to help the community with their daily communication with the general public.
Everyone is adhering to the rules of social distancing at the moment, or at least the majority of us are trying our very best to! However, for the deaf and hard of hearing community, many can’t either hear clearly or even hear at all from a distance. This poses yet another big challenge for the community, especially when you combine with the barrier of the face masks and the already muffled speech that distorts the sound it causes. You can easily see how someone with a hearing loss might not hear someone talking to them at all or at the very least mis-understand them due to social distancing.
In addition to all these challenges, if there is background noise, many with hearing loss will struggle to communicate. So, when you add in the social distancing and face mask issues as well as background noise, you can understand how difficult it would be for someone that is in the deaf or hard of hearing community to focus on your voice.
WHAT ARE THE SOLUTIONS?
These are just some of the challenges faced by the deaf and hard of hearing community each day. It’s evident that there are multiple factors that contribute and are involved in this community trying to communicate effectively while everyone wears a face mask and social distances. Fortunately, however, there are a few simple solutions everyone can implement to help reduce the impact of these challenges and make lives that little bit easier for the deaf and hard of hearing community.
TIPS FOR THE GENERAL PUBLIC TO HELP WITH COMMUNICATION:
- Use visual cues to signal to get attention e.g. a simple wave
- Speak a little louder than usual (You don’t have to scream)
- Use simple gestures where possible
- Write it out if you can (Paper or Phone)
- Ask the person directly what you can do to help them understand you better
- Be patient
TIPS FOR THE DEAF AND HARD OF HEARING COMMUNITY TO HELP WITH COMMUNICATION:
- Don’t be afraid to let people know you have a hearing loss
- Let people know the best way to communicate with you
- Wear a mask or badge that indicates to people you have a hearing loss
- Use gestures to indicate that you cannot hear
- Most importantly, be patient with yourself
WE ARE HERE FOR YOU
We want to reassure you that we are still here for you at this time. As Audiology is an essential service, we are remaining open to offer urgent and essential services to clients. This includes having an Audiology team member available to speak to you over the phone and schedule an appointment if essential. If you have any questions or would like to speak to us, click HERE or freephone 1800 501 501.