May has been designated Speech and Hearing Month. This May, it was especially difficult for those with hearing loss in the Asheville area and elsewhere to deal with barriers to communication set up to prevent virus spread. These barriers are necessary. Slowly, those of us with hearing loss have been finding ways to deal with them, at least to some extent. They may be with us for quite some time.
People with hearing loss need to share ideas about communicating in this situation, and it is important for others in the community to realize what some of their friends, customers or patients are experiencing.
Masks heavily reduce volume and clarity of speech. Across 6 feet, it’s impossible for many to hear, even with moderate loss. Lip-reading, on which a lot of us depend, is also impossible across that distance. Masks with clear centers are made but are not yet available widely. A particular problem is that people with hearing loss need the other person to wear one. Some medical settings are trying to obtain them. And telehealth can be helpful, too.
Wearing masks of any kind is difficult, especially with glasses, too. Commonly they attach behind the ear with elastic extensions. Great care is needed in removal if hearing aids are not to go flying. Losses are frequent, which can create big problems. Some headgear is made with buttons, and some masks tie, which helps. Some advocate using a paper clip extended to catch both elastics behind the head, which can work quite well.
There are apps that transcribe for captioning, so someone can speak close to a phone held toward them while reading the captions is attempted by someone else. But across 6 feet? Difficult!
American Sign Language (ALS) is the language of choice for those who are completely or almost deaf, and those with serious hearing loss from childhood may also find that the easiest way to communicate with similar others. We’ve all seen interpreters at work. However, often it’s not understood that those represent a minority of people with hearing loss. A large proportion of such people only developed it late in life, so they have to get by in the hearing world, virus or no.
Please, readers, particularly in medical settings and grocery or other stores, be patient and as helpful as possible when you encounter people with hearing loss. They may be stressed out.
For more, contact email@example.com. Or better, go to the Hearing Loss Association of America website for tips and information: [avl.mx/7bv].
— Ann Karson