The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend, and some businesses require people to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. While this is an essential barrier to disease, it’s also a new barrier for the deaf and hard of hearing. If you’re one of the 48 million Americans dealing with hearing loss, you are now struggling, even more, to read lips and interpret conversations.

And if you weren’t aware that your hearing had declined, the new “normal” of wearing masks has now brought that hearing loss to your attention. Fortunately, it’s a new challenge that the caring team at Clarity Hearing is equipped to address.

Here are some factors that increase difficulty hearing during the pandemic, and the ways our experienced doctors can help.

Absence of Lip Reading

Once a considerable asset to the hard of hearing and deaf communities, reading lips is now basically impossible. Some companies are producing masks with transparent plastic, like the Safe’N’Clear Communicator mask, the first medical mask with a clear mouth window approved by the Food and Drug Administration. But, currently, those are primarily sold to surgeons for better communication in operating rooms.

Muffled Sound

Face masks muffle the sound of everyone when they speak. Those who struggle to hear already have difficulty interpreting words. It’s particularly challenging to distinguish consonant sounds spoken through a mask, which causes significant confusion. To properly hear conversation through a mask, you often have to stand closer than the 6-foot distance recommended by the CDC.

Limited Facial Expressions

We all rely on facial expressions to interpret the tone and meaning of conversations, and people with hearing loss depend on facial expressions even more. The usage of masks eliminates important cues like smiles, confusion, frustration, anger, and empathy. Members of the ASL community often feel that visual communication is their primary language, rather than spoken English. Without visible facial expressions, communication is challenging.

Greater Isolation

Those with hearing loss might find themselves feeling extra isolated during the pandemic. While some people communicate over Zoom or FaceTime, those things aren’t easy to participate in when you can’t hear. Being left out of conversation adds greater isolation in a time of quarantine and lockdown.

Why the Pandemic Makes Hearing Loss More Apparent

Many people didn’t realize how much they relied on things like lip-reading, facial expressions, and proximity to people until they weren’t able to do them. If you already wear a hearing device, you might now notice that it’s not working well. If you thought you had an adequate hearing, you might now be aware of hearing loss. Your hearing has always been an important sense, but it takes on greater significance when masks limit visual cues.

How Clarity Hearing Can Help

The first step in your journey to better hearing is to schedule a hearing consultation. We can determine if you have hearing loss, or if you’re experiencing a healthy amount of hearing difficulty caused by face coverings.

If you have a hearing aid, we can determine if it’s time for a new one, or if there is damage or clogging. We can provide an aid that fits perfectly in your ear for optimal sound. If you have never worn a hearing device, you’ll be surprised by how tiny and capable they are, even allowing remote adjustments by your doctor.

If you or a loved one has been struggling to hear or complaining that others are mumbling, then schedule a comprehensive hearing assessment OR schedule a Tele Audiology appointment. The pandemic is stressful enough. Contact our caring team to remove one of those stressors by improving your hearing.

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Dr. Scott Marquardt - Doctor of Audiology & CEO of Clarity Hearing

Dr. Scott Marquardt - Doctor of Audiology & CEO of Clarity Hearing

Scott Marquardt is the owner of Clarity Hearing and a highly skilled audiologist who has been in practice for over 20 years. Dr. Marquardt earned a master’s degree in audiology from Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, and a doctorate from A.T. Still University. He is a member of the American Speech Language Hearing Association and a fellow of the American Academy of Audiology. He and the team offer comprehensive hearing healthcare services and specialize in the care of tinnitus, imbalance, and auditory processing disorders.