With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, facial coverings and masks have been implemented across the country. With the CDC determining that they help minimize the spread of the virus, more and more people are continuing to use them. Unfortunately, there are groups in the population who struggle with communication due to the use of face masks. The hearing loss community is one such group.

Reading Lips

Those with a hearing loss can communicate and interact with others because they have learned to read lips or decipher context through micro-expressions and facial cues. This ability has allowed them to communicate without any issues.

The extensive use of face masks has impeded this ability, making it much more challenging to communicate, isolating a large group of people i.e., 466 million people globally, 34 million of whom are children, according to the WHO.

Seeing lip patterns and facial expressions are also vital for those who communicate through American Sign Language, and it is incredibly challenging to sign without touching your face.

Muffled Sounds & Words

Muffled speech is another side effect of wearing a face mask. Words that sound similar but have different meanings can become challenging to distinguish. And sound can be reduced by up to 15 decibels! – Making an impossible situation even worse.

Patients currently in hospital, are often unable to hear, lip read, or read facial expressions of medical professionals wearing facemasks. In the UK, this very scenario inspired NHS anesthetist, Dr. Rachel Grimaldi, to design a series of digital flashcards (CARDMEDIC) to address these problems by transferring vital information to patients with hearing loss. These are free for anyone to use and are available in 10 languages.

Attempting To Communicate At A Distance

Because of social distancing measures, some sounds are no longer audible due to proximity, even in a space where the background noise is silent or low. Passing written notes back and forth are also no longer viable options. The Deaf/Hard of Hearing Technology Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center has created a comprehensive list of technology tools, like apps, to aid communication.

How To Improve Communication

There are some ways that we all can work together to improve communication. 

  1. Wear your hearing aid. – Without your hearing aid, it will be incredibly challenging to get by, make sure it is properly adjusted (we can help you with that), and if you have older devices, ask if you’re in an area/building with a hearing loop.
  2. Wear and encourage others to wear masks with a transparent window or a face shield. – Ashely Lawrence, from Woodford County, Kentucky, designed a very simple facemask with a clear plastic window that allows the mouth to be seen when communicating. Simple yet very useful and free for anyone who needs one.
  3. Avoid/reduce background noise.
  4. Speak slowly and clearly and raise your average volume (without shouting).
  5. Carry cue cards that convey your basic needs ahead of time.
  6. Use technology like voice-to-text apps.

How We Can Help

If you or a loved one has found it particularly difficult to hear people wearing face masks, contact us today to schedule a comprehensive hearing assessment. 

We are open for in-person appointments with strict hygiene protocols and pre-screening. Alternatively, we can see patients via video call, from the comfort of your own home, through our Virtual Audicles Service.

If you require further assistance, please call us at 210-820-0525.

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Dr. Tracy Board Doctor of Audiology

Dr. Tracy Board Doctor of Audiology

Dr. Board began her career in audiology after completing her undergraduate degree at The University of Texas at Austin and the doctoral program at The University of Texas at Dallas. She has been fortunate to work in a plethora of healthcare and educational settings. As a result, she has perfected the art of effective adult and pediatric treatment. When she is not at the clinic, Dr. Board works directly with her state and national organizations to not only improve the quality of audiological healthcare in Texas, but also to advocate for her patients.
What Was Betty's First Experience at Audicles Like ...
“My first sign of hearing loss was gradually realizing that I couldn’t hear and was missing too much. My first impressions of Audicles were that I would recommend them, they had a good reputation and local. I knew that I needed help and found them very easy to work with, very thorough and very likable. Hearing aids have impacted my life a great deal, I was missing too much of what was going on. My advice to anybody considering visiting Audicles would be that they’re an excellent choice and I think they would be very happy with them.”
Betty P.
What Would Brian Rate Audicles Out of 10? ...
“I first realized I had signs of hearing loss in the early 90’s, my biggest fear at the time was having to wear hearing aids and feeling old and deaf. I went to visit Audicles and if I had to rate my first impressions on a scale of 1 to 10 I would give them a 12+. From day one of having my hearing aids, everything changed, when I take them off the world goes to only 50% hearing, so they really have positively impacted my life. I always recommend Audicles so if you are considering visiting, I would highly recommend and refer Audicles and Tracey Board.”
Brian O.
Dr. Watson’s passion to help kids hear better was very heartwarming ...
“My first signs of hearing loss started in 3rd grade, I had problems with my teacher, which in turn led to having a hearing test, which found high frequency hearing loss in my left ear. Audicles made me feel very comfortable right from the start and Dr. Watson’s passion to help kids hear better was very heartwarming, enough to keep me as a patient for 30+ years. My hearing aids have become a true blessing as I have gotten older, if you are considering visiting Audicles, don’t wait! They truly go above and beyond to help you.”
Donald Kotzer
What Happened at 4 Year Old Hunter's First Appointment ...
“Hunter was just four years old when we found out he had a profound hearing loss in both ears and as his parents we were so worried Hunter would have to live with this disability and would always be considered different. As soon as his hearing aids were turned on, he ran to the window and said “trucks.” He could hear the traffic for the first time. When we got home to his Memi’s house, he could hear the peacocks and he was so excited … it was priceless. The impact hearing aids have had on Hunter’s life is incredible, Hunter says “I am able to live a normal life and communicate easily with my family and friends. I love to hunt and fish, which are two things I can do better when I can hear.” For anybody considering visiting Audicles, we would not consider taking Hunter anywhere else, they are the most caring people you will ever meet. We love Dr. Board and all of the staff, they are extremely helpful and welcoming at all times.”
Hunter Brown
Isaac First Visited Audicles as a Little Kid ...
“My first signs of hearing loss came when I was a little kid, I was really happy when I visited Audicles for my first appointment. Hearing Aids have had a really good impact on my life, I can hear everything! I would definitely encourage anybody considering visiting Audicles to go.”
Isaac Leos
She Always Made Me Feel Like I Belonged ...
“I was only two when signs of hearing loss were detected so I don’t remember my first appointment, but one of my earliest memories was visiting Dr. Jane with my grandpa. She always made me feel like I belonged and always greeted me with a smile and a hug. My first impressions of Audicles were awesome, I remember sitting in the hearing booth thinking I was in a spaceship! The impact hearing aids have had on my life is indescribable, I would not be where I am without the help of Audicles, Dr. Jane went above and beyond to help me. I would say to anybody considering visiting Audicles, what are you waiting for?”
Jaret Gunn
There is Never a Better Time to Do It Than The Present ...
“I noticed the first signs of hearing loss at work, as I work with children in my teaching job, I found it harder and harder to hear them. My family were also giving me a hard time about the TV volume. I was so ready to increase my quality of life and not miss anything so I had no fears about visiting Audicles for my first appointment. I was made to feel right at home! They were professional, kind, patient and explained everything. Hearing aids have impacted my life in a big way, I can hear my grandchildren. I have been able to use mics and the technology offered for a variety of purposes was all for the good. If you are considering visiting Audicles, just do it! There is never a better time than the present. What do you have to lose?”
Kim M.
My First Signs of Hearing Loss Were ...
“I was really pleased with my first visit to Audicles, first impressions were very good, everyone is very nice and helpful. Wearing hearing aids has positively impacted my life as I can hear things now that I did not realize I was missing. If you are considering visiting Audicles I would say to go, you can’t find a better service.”
Loretta Anton