In the era of wearing masks and staying physically distant from others, speech reception can be increasingly difficult for those with hearing loss. A recent study by The Hearing Review reveals that speech and communication blocked by facial masks are becoming important issues to address during COVID-19, especially for those who are receiving medical care.
Proper communication must be delivered by the transmitter and received correctly by the recipient in order to be effective. Those with hearing loss may already struggle to properly interpret speech and adding masks to the equation can make communication even more challenging. Two specific barriers of masks are 1. Individuals cannot use lipreading to gain additional cues, and 2. The voice of the other individual is attenuated or distorted by the mask.
The study performed a test measuring the SPL level difference in dB across four different variables: no mask; simple mask; N95 mask 1; and an N95 mask 2. Data showed that “each mask essentially serves as a low-pass filter, attenuating the high frequencies (2000-7000 Hz) spoken by the wearer). Essentially, the test confirmed that the speech quality degradation, due to masks, paired with no visual cues can pose greater difficulties to speech reception.
So how can we continue to communicate effectively with our loved ones and others with hearing loss during this era of mask-wearing? The Hearing Review’s article lists tips for caregivers in a medical setting that we think are good reminders, even in the every-day conversations where masks are being worn:
- Speak slowly
- Reduce noise and obtain the individual with hearing loss’ attention
- Ask the individual with hearing loss how they prefer to communicate
- Ensure that hearing aids are properly worn and up-to-date with care
- Rephrase remarks if not understood
- Take turns while speaking if others are present
- Do not shout, overemphasize, or exaggerate your words
- Do not carry a conversation with the individual while walking
We know these ever-changing times can pose difficulties or frustrations, but Center for Hearing is here to help! Whether you or a loved one needs a hearing aid repair, tune-up, hearing-wellness or new-patient appointment, give us a call today!
Center for Hearing
Rogers Ave. Suite #15
Fort Smith, AR