Wearing Hearing Aids with a Face Mask

The Coronavirus pandemic has touched our lives in many ways. It’s redefining the ‘new normal.’ For many of us, adjusting to the impact of COVID-19 requires slight adaptations.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidance aimed at slowing the spread of the virus. Their website includes information on what to do if you are sick. Further information includes ways you can protect yourself and others.

Good hygiene and maintaining a clean home are two ways to help slow the spread. Two others that are frequently discussed include social distancing and the use of face masks.

The CDC outlines a clear reason for their advice to wear face masks. As outlined on their website: “We now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”)…  even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms.”

Face masks should be worn in places where maintaining a safe social distance is difficult. These include public areas such as grocery stores or pharmacies.

Hearing Loss and Face Masks

Face masks aim to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. Unfortunately, however, they present challenges for people with hearing loss. Some of these challenges include:

Inability to read lips – The ability to read lips can be a powerful communication tool. For people with hearing loss, lip reading can help plug gaps in a conversation. Covering our mouth makes this impossible.

Reduced visibility of the face – Alongside reading lips, facial expressions are important in communication. Our expressions can indicate joy, sincerity, anger, and more. Often, our face tells more of a story than our words do! Face masks unfortunately cover up a significant portion of our face. This makes interpreting these expressions more troublesome.

Difficulty hearing at a distance – Guidelines outline that we should maintain a safe social distance of 6 feet from other people. Unfortunately, that added distance can make understanding communication more challenging if you have a hearing loss.

Tips for Wearing Hearing Aids With a Face Mask

If you wear hearing aids, face masks can pose additional problems. Audiologists have reported an increase in people losing their hearing aid devices. This is reportedly due to the challenges associated with wearing a face mask.

One reason for people losing their hearing aids are the straps getting tangled in the device. When the wearer goes to remove their face mask, their hearing aid unfortunately flies off.

It’s important to ensure that you are able to continue wearing your hearing aid devices. Particularly when you consider the additional communication challenges we’ve already discussed. We’ve put together some tips that can help you avoid problems wearing a face mask with a hearing aid.

  1. Remove your mask at home – This ensures that in the event your hearing aid does fall off, it should be easier to find.
  2. Check the hearing devices are still there – After removing your face mask, ensure that your hearing aid device is still in place.
  3. Tie back long hair – If you have long hair, tie it back with an elastic band. This avoids any potential tangling with your hair, the face mask and / or your hearing aid.
  4. Use a mask with 4 strings – Rather than a face mask with the elastic loops, opt for a face mask with 4 strings. This allows you to tie it behind your head, rather than looped behind your ears.
  5. Use a headband with buttons – This is a great solution if you’re feeling crafty. Take a regular headband, and sew two buttons on either side of the band. Put the headband on your head, with the buttons just behind your ears. Attach the face mask elastic bands to the buttons rather than your ears.

In the unfortunate circumstance where you do lose your hearing aid device, please contact your local hearing healthcare provider. They will be able to advise you on replacement options.

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