In response to the current pandemic, many of us are wearing face masks in public places. For people with a hearing loss, this introduces unique challenges: muffled voices, the inability to see mouths and visual speech cues, and the need for extra volume in their hearing aids.
Face masks have been shown to decrease the intensity of speech by approximately 10 dB. That is a significant reduction in the volume of a human voice.
In public places, such as retail stores or restaurants, the issue is often compounded by plexiglass shields and other background noise. These conditions make it difficult to communicate even for normal hearing individuals.
Inability to See Mouths and Visual Speech Cues
For the hard of hearing, seeing the mouth move during speech is an important part of listening.
Some people actually read lips, but for most people with a hearing loss, it is less lip reading and more an assistive strategy to help better understand speech.
Visual cues from the mouth and lips help to distinguish, for example, the word “pot” from “cot.” Additionally, facial expressions help provide contextual and emotional information that is often lost with a mask.
The Need for Additional Hearing Aid Help
Muffled voices and masked mouths result in a need for better hearing. Our clinic has found that it is helpful for our hearing aid patients to create a special setting, or “program,” within their existing hearing aids for this purpose.
This special setting often has both increased overall volume as well as a directional microphone pattern to help amplify the voice of the speaker without amplifying too much of the competing ambient noise in the environment.
Sometimes, wireless microphones that can transmit to hearing aids are also helpful in difficult listening situations.
The Most Trusted Team of Hearing & Balance Doctors
Our clinic, Hearing & Balance Doctors, is staffed entirely by doctors of audiology who are specially trained to help improve communication even in difficult circumstances. Call us today for a free consultation: (435) 688-8991.