BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – For most of us, wearing a mask has been an adjustment period — sometimes even frustrating. But those who are hearing impaired have trouble communicating when masks are covering people’s mouths.
“The solid mask is causing an issue where they can’t lipread,” said Dr. Audra Branham, with Hearing Innovations. “When you have hearing loss, lipreading is a great communication strategy.”
Lipreading limits the listening effort on the brain and makes it easier to understand speech.
Branham said they’ve been getting a lot of complaints from people who are deaf or hard of hearing because they’re having trouble communicating with others.
“Especially the thicker they get. Some are real thick. You can’t hear at all and then I start saying, ‘What? Huh?'” Ed Swaneck said.
Branham said it’s caused some patients to just stay home.
“We’ve had some patients say they stopped going out because they couldn’t understand the speech because of the severity of their hearing loss.”
The more hearing loss a person has, the more they rely on reading lips. Even for those with hearing aids, reading lips can make all the difference.
“If you’re listening and you hear ‘first’ and ‘thirst,’ they sound a lot alike. But if you can see ‘first’ and ‘thirst,’ it makes it much easier if you’re lipreading to kind of make sense of what’s being said. They can hear, but they don’t understand what was said,” Branham said.
There are some things you can do to make it easier on those who have trouble hearing. Branham recommends using a clear mask if you can, talking slowly and reducing any background noise so the person can focus on what you’re saying.