Strategies for Communicating at home
and while wearing a mask

For the nearly 38 million American adults with hearing loss, the guidelines set in place by the CDC to stop the spread of Covid-19 brings about daily communication difficulties.  Did you know that wearing a mask can reduce sounds by 10-12 decibels? This means that masks diminish soft speech sounds that are fundamental for speech understanding. Masks make it difficult to hear for most people by making speech sound muffled but more difficult for those with hearing loss. 

Nonverbal communication is very important when communicating with others. Facial expressions and lip movement help us differentiate certain words and emotions the speaker is using.  Adults with hearing loss rely a lot more on facial expressions and lip reading to help them communicate daily.  

coronavirus, virus, mask

Below is some advice and tips that we recommend to help resolve common communication issues during this unprecedented time. Most importantly, wear your hearing aids daily! My patients often say they do not “need” to wear their hearing aids at home. By not wearing your hearing aids consistently, your brain will not getting the necessary auditory stimulation to preserve speech intelligibility. 

While wearing your hearing aids and practicing good communication skills, you and your family members can make small adjustments to improve your listening experience.

  • Communicate with others in the same room.
  • Face each other when speaking. Not with backs turned or looking down into a newspaper or screen. 
  • Reduce background noise if possible by turning off the TV, radio, or AC.
  • Use closed captions when watching television or movies. 
  • When in public, let people know if you are having trouble hearing or understanding them.
  • Ask them to slow down their speech if you have difficulty understanding.
  • If you have over the ear hearing aids, be careful when placing and removing your mask. We recommend to look in a mirror to make sure your hearing aids do not accidentally fall out and get lost. 
    • In this case – use a mask extender so your mask is not wrapped around your ears.

Not only will wearing your hearing aids daily and following these tips help to improve your ability to understand better in more difficult to hear environments but these tips will also help reduce strain. Research has found the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. Hearing loss causes communication difficulties and patients are often putting forth more effort or straining to hear. Over time that strain can overwhelm your brain making it more vulnerable to the onset of cognitive decline. 

By following these tips you can help to reduce that strain to improve not only your brain health but your overall health!