LOS ANGELES - The “new normal” of wearing masks and creating 6 feet of social distancing has created some challenges, especially for those with hearing loss.
Protective masks, especially N95 masks, not only reduce the volume of our voices, but a new study reveals face coverings can also reduce specific frequencies of speech. Perhaps more importantly, they diminish the visual and emotional cues we use to understand each other in conversation.
For the deaf or hearing impaired, being unable to read lips is much more impactful – many feel even more isolated, especially in public settings like grocery stores where they cannot visualize what is being said.
However, masks are not that only factor making communication difficult. The plexiglass protective barriers and spacing requirements make it harder to communicate in these places, even if you have perfect hearing, which adds to increased frustration and anxiety for a lot of people during this pandemic.
Dr. Amit Gosalia, a doctor of Audiology from West Valley Hearing Center, joined Good Day LA to talk about the challenges and offer some techniques.
Dr. Gosalia and his staff are wearing masks with transparent windows to help patients better understand what they are communicating. These masks are available commercially and there are many DIY options as well.
He offered some tips:
•When speaking face-to-face, speak slowly and enunciate each word specifically;
•When asked to repeat – don’t repeat the same words over and over, instead, rephrase in a new way;
•Decrease background noise and make sure as a speaker, you are in good light.
“Dr. G” says to remember to get the person’s attention before you start speaking and most of all, be patient with loved ones who suffer impaired hearing, their sense of isolation is increased exponentially during these uncertain times.