COVID-19 is Affecting Better Speech and Hearing Month
May is recognized as Better Speech and Hearing Month. Ironically, COVID-19 has added some challenges for hearing during this time. Patients with hearing loss (even treated with hearing aids) rely on facial cues and some lip reading. The CDC recommends wearing face masks to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Covering the mouth confounds communication for not just the hearing impaired, but for others with conditions that require visual communication (ie. Autism, speech therapy).
Another new challenge we have identified is how wearing glasses and hearing aids with the addition of a face mask creates a “tangle” at ear level. The “tangle” had not occurred to me until my father (on our family’s weekly google call) asked me to “invent something to help with the hearing aids, glasses and mask combo” at the ear level. For pediatric patients we have “ear buddies”, a little clip that holds onto the back of the shirt and a little rubber attachment that affixes to the bottom of the BTEs (Behind The Ear hearing aids). If the hearing aid falls out of the ear canal the hearing aid won’t fall all the way to the ground but will still be attached to the child’s shirt. Perhaps a solution for adult hearing aid users would be to use glasses holders on the bottom of the hearing aids or a hearing aid chain like this one sold on Etsy:
The first day I was released to open Compass Hearing Center by the Governor of Texas, my patient and I were both wearing masks and I removed her hearing aids to take them for maintenance. Without her hearing aids, and with the mask covering my face, my patient threw her hands in the air and said “I can’t hear a thing you’re saying honey”. It was then I realized how difficult it truly was for patients who have hearing loss, even more so for those who have untreated hearing loss, to communicate with someone wearing a mask. Perhaps this pandemic will be the catalyst for many patients to obtain the treatment or hearing aids they have put off. With no end in sight it is unclear how long wearing masks will be recommended, and it puts hearing into the forefront when visual communication is hindered by a mask.
I have commissioned a life-long friend to assist in the production of a mask with a clear cutout for visualization of my mouth. I am hopeful this will reduce the frustration and isolation many patients have been experiencing during this time. Isolation and depression often occur with hearing loss, and with the CDC recommendations for social distancing even those without hearing loss can “feel a little blue”. Now, more than ever it is important to maximize your communication and stay in touch with your loved ones in the time of “social distancing”. Please Contact Compass Hearing Center to schedule your hearing evaluation. Please review our Covid-19 Policy as of May 2020.