In response to the global COVD19 Pandemic, the city of Melbourne has seen strict lockdown measures to prevent the spread of the virus. It certainly has been an unsettling and unusual year with the impact far reaching and affecting each individual uniquely.
Physical distancing, social restrictions and the compulsory use of face masks has become the norm to mitigate the spread of the Coronavirus. As a result, these measures have indirectly made it much harder for those with a hearing loss in Melbourne and worldwide.
We’ve all learnt firsthand, how hard it can be to hear what someone is saying with the use of face coverings and for the first time many can see just how much we rely on seeing a person’s face to fully hear what is being said. Hearing loss is so slow in its deterioration it is often our close friends and family who notice before the individual. When we begin to lose one sense, we look to others to fill in the gaps such as visual lip-reading cues. As both auditory and visual cues have been impacted, many have started to question their own hearing abilities.
For those with varying degrees of diagnosed hearing loss and use of amplification devices, this period has been very stressful.
Mastering communication with a hearing loss, has been challenging for close communication partners and the hearing impaired. The physical distancing and use of face masks remove vital cues, and dampen the audible volume of speech, disrupting effective communication. For those who wear glasses, a behind the ear style hearing aid and now the added face mask, managing the correct use and placement of all this medical equipment and ensuring nothing is lost, has been particularly difficult for our older adult populations. In Melbourne these rules have been in place for nearing 9 months with no clear timeline for when these measures will no longer be mandatory. With this in mind, mastering communication with those with a hearing loss here in Melbourne and establishing baseline hearing results is more important than ever.
What can you do to help?
- Gain listeners attention prior to speaking
We often miss the starts of conversation because we are busy attending to something else. Engaging eye contact, waiting for someone to complete a task then speaking will ensure the conversation is followed from start to end in the absence of distractions.
- Keep interactions short
And check listener has understood the conversation with follow up questions
- Speak slowly and clearly
There is no need to shout. Check the volume of your speech by asking is this volume ok?
- Where possible, optimise the listening environment
Background noise is anything other than the speech you are trying to hear. This is one of the greatest challenges for the hearing impaired. So try to take the conversation to a more quiet section, turn off background appliances, book restaurants ahead of time requesting ideal seating arrangements. If this is not ideal, try the use of smartphone apps such as speech to text and transcribing apps.
- Ask what you can do to help
If you haven’t had to communicate with someone with a hearing loss, some get nervous and don’t know how to help or chose to not engage at all. Simply asking can make all the difference. The hearing-impaired individual appreciates you are wanting to assist and will guide you through the conversation.
- Acknowledge the anxiety and stress from anticipating hearing challenges people may face. Be flexible and gentle.
During a time when hearing feels more critical than ever, a hearing healthcare appointment with a university Qualified Audiologist is strongly encouraged. If you are experiencing hearing loss and/or tinnitus speak with one of our Audiologists today who can help lessen the effect of poor listening on your day to day life.