Challenges Faced by Hearing Impaired Individuals when Communicating with a Face Mask

Due to the COVID 19 pandemic, it is now law that all South African’s make use of a face mask when in public to reduce the transmission from the disease. Unfortunately, this poses a number of listening challenges for hearing impaired individuals. It has been proven that the masks reduce the volume of the talker’s voice by as much as 10 decibels. This means the sound reaching the hearing aid microphone is reduced, and at times distorted, affecting the efficacy of the hearing aid.

Many hearing impaired individuals rely on lip reading and visual cues to help fill in the gaps of what they are unable to hear with their hearing aids. I have had several patients come in over the COVID period telling me their hearing has declined. After conducting a hearing test, I inform these patients that their hearing has not changed, it is the circumstances which have changed and affected their ability to hear and communicate. Face shields provide hearing impaired individuals the ability to lip read, however face shields are not the preferred method of face coverings.

Another challenge is wearing behind-the-ear hearing aids and a face mask at the same time. Most masks are secured behind the ear. If someone wears a behind-the-ear device, the mask can rub on the microphone. Patients are also losing their hearing aids, as when they pull their mask off, often the hearing aid attaches to the mask and it too goes flying when the mask is removed.

We ask all our patients to take special care when removing their face masks to check that their device is still in place. We also encourage patients to insure their hearing aids in case they are lost during this time.

COVID-19 and the subsequent use of face masks are here to stay for the foreseeable future.

We have the following tips for patients when choosing an appropriate face mask so it does not interfere with their hearing aids:

If you’d like to chat to Candice to discuss the contents of this article, or if you need a hearing test, please contact us to book an appointment in Bedfordview or Benoni by calling our office on 011 615 3047 or email candice@cvhaudiology.co.za.