Categories Deaf & Hear Alberta

Covid-19 and Hearing Loss

Stopping the Spread is today’s hottest topic as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.   It is now more important than ever to follow the Alberta Government guidelines.

For Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities, COVID-19 health measures can be frustrating with all of the added challenges to communication.  Did you know…?

  • Face masks add an extra challenge to speech recognition. Even with hearing aids, some words are difficult to understand clearly as the masks create an obstruction.
  • Masks hide many facial expressions that inhibit communication for people using American Sign Language, as the language depends heavily on facial expressions.
  • Lipreading is impossible with regular cloth masks. Some manufacturers sell masks with a clear film over the mouth but this does not eliminate the sound barrier. These masks are also in short supply.
  • Social distancing makes conversation especially difficult for people with hearing loss as standing closely while facing people allows them to hear better.  If there is any background noise, it is even more difficult to hear as hearing aids don’t necessarily distinguish which sounds are important and which should be filtered out.
  • The plexiglass screens that are so important for stores, doctor’s offices, labs, etc. also create a sound barrier for people with hearing loss.

Here are some helpful strategies to address the frustration with COVID protocols:

  • If you have hearing loss; tell people!  They can make accommodations like remembering to face you, speak clearly, and be ready to repeat themselves if necessary.  If communication can be made using sign language, people can socially distance and remove their mask.
  • Find a smartphone app that translates voice to text, especially when attending medical and other appointments.  If you don’t have a smartphone, you can carry a portable whiteboard or use a notebook.
  • Make use of assistive devices!
    • A Pocketalker is a personal, battery-operated device that amplifies voices through a headset and can be used with or without hearing aids.
    • Some microphones are compatible with hearing aids; the Phonak Roger system is a great example of a wireless microphone.
    • Look for service providers that provide accessibility for the hard of hearing with a counter loop system.   This device transmits the speaker’s voice directly to hearing aid users who stand within 3 – 4 feet of the counter. (This could be a challenge with the current distancing protocols).
  • Prepare yourself and others for virtual meetings
  • Remind presenters to light their faces from the front so you can clearly see their expressions and read their lips.
  • Use any streaming devices that are compatible with your hearing aids or use headphones for better sound.
  • It is a great idea for the organizer to mute everyone so that only one person at a time speaks and there is no background noise to distract from the conversation.
  • Some online platforms offer captioning through voice recognition. If you need captioning, find the platform that works best for your needs.

Together we can help each other communicate while helping to stop the spread!

Reach out to DHA for resources:

DHA has “I Have Hearing Loss” cards (pictured above) that are available for pick-up at our office at no charge. For more details contact sharron@deafandhearalberta.ca.

DHA has fabric masks with a clear window to allow the wearer’s mouth to be seen. View them here for more information.

For more information on Pocketalkers and other amplified devices, contact our Accessibility Services Manager.  Free consultations by appointment are available.

For support with the challenges of hearing loss in social situations and/or the workplace, our mentorship program, funded by FCSS, matches you with volunteer mentors who have lived the experience. Contact sharron@deafandhearalberta.ca for details.