Masks are an important part of protecting your health and preventing further spread of COVID-19, but they can make communication difficult, especially for the approximately 48 million Americans with hearing loss.
It can be difficult to communicate while wearing a mask and misinterpretation can have dangerous outcomes, especially if you’re trying to advocate for yourself.
Masks can muffle sound and that makes it more difficult to understand speech and some higher-pitched voices.
They also take away the ability to read lips or see facial expressions, and for people who wear hearing aids or cochlear implants, they can be uncomfortable.
If you’re having trouble hearing people, the American Speech-Language Hearing Association has some suggestions:
- Make sure you have the person’s attention before you start talking.
- Face them directly without anything blocking you.
- Talk a little louder and a little slower.
- Use your hands and your body language.
Tricia Ashby-Scabis a director with the American Speech-Language Hearing Association, said communication barriers can have negative consequences.
“Self-advocacy is a big part of it even for people without hearing loss right now. I can’t tell you how often I have to ask people to repeat themselves,” Ashby-Scabis said. “So everybody needs to take that extra step to make sure that they’re able to communicate.”
While the CDC suggests solid face coverings, just this week, it acknowledged the need to allow for modifications like clear shields to improve communication for everyone.
If all else fails, it’s OK to ask for the person to write things down.