Masks Continue to Challenge Hearing and Communication

Feb 5, 2022

Unless your main form of communication is online, communicating with someone not wearing a mask is pretty rare these days. We all need to be doing our bit to protect others from the transmission of the COVID 19 virus, and mask wearing is a great way to help to stop the spread. But as we have all experienced, it can make the understanding of conversation a little more challenging – actually, no, make that a lot more challenging. Many of us have come to realise just how dependant we are on the information we gain from being able to see people’s mouths and their full faces when we are talking together with them. For those of us experiencing hearing loss, we have known this for some time, so learning a few strategies to try and help make masked communication easier can help us all.

The Commonwealth government Hearing Services Program has also acknowledged that face masks can pose additional challenges, particularly for those with hearing loss. The program has produced this factsheet to provide some useful tips to make the process of wearing, and communicating while wearing, a face mask more comfortable.

So, if your understanding is being impacted by mask wearing, try sharing these tips with your communication partners to help:

  1. Ask them to articulate clearly: Masks will soften some of the sharper sounds of speech that contribute to speech clarity, so it’s important to make sure you are speaking super clearly to begin with. There’s no need to shout, but a little extra voice projection can be helpful.
  2. Ask them to use gestures: We can still see the rest of your body, so adding gestures to support what you are saying will help create the picture and streamline your communication
  3. Keep the noise down – if you can, try and communicate in quieter environments. This will help to focus on the conversation and not get distracted or drowned out by surrounding sounds and noises. Social distancing helps with this too – the further away we are from others, the less their noise will get in the way.
  4. The barrier can be removed when it’s safe: When the strategies just aren’t helping sufficiently, do remember that if you have a hearing loss, you are able to ask someone to remove their mask to support your ability to communicate. Many people are unaware that this is a legal exemption for those communicating with someone with a hearing loss. The person with the hearing loss does not remove their mask, as this doesn’t help communication for the hearing impaired person. Either way, remember to social distancee.

Communication is such a key part of ensuring we feel connected and continue to be the social beings we are. Practising these strategies might just make life that little bit easier, and when it comes to living in a pandemic, we could all use a little load lightening right?

For all you hearing health needs, Victorian Hearing have clinics across Melbourne. University qualified, professional and friendly audiologists are located in Clayton, Geelong, Mornington, Brighton, North Fitzroy, North Balwyn, Malvern, and Melbourne CBD. Make an appointment today.