You might wonder what the relationship is between COVID-19, masks and hearing loss. Perhaps, before this pandemic, not many people, even those with hearing loss, thought about this question. However, now that wearing masks is a requirement, we see more people not clearly understanding each other. There could be variety of factors contributing to the problem. Let’s look at a few:
- Depending on their type and material, masks could have some impact on the transmission of sound. However, the good news is research shows most masks do not interfere significantly with articulation (Watt, 2020).
- Because they are covered by masks, mouth and lips expressions are dropped from the body language. Also, people that rely on lip-reading lose an important tool in their communication.
In a recent post by CBC titled “How COVID-19 is unmasking my hearing loss”, an individual with hearing loss has shared his added challenge to understand his mask-wearing audience. He says “Now that many are wearing masks, the problem is that not only do they hinder the transmission of the virus; they also hinder the transmission of sound”.
Of course, wearing masks is still a necessary public health tool as we make our way through this difficult time. But it’s also important to accommodate those who will struggle more because of masks. Another point to consider is the extra value that hearing aids could provide to people with hearing loss, especially when other communication tools, such as lip-reading and body language are removed from their day-to-day conversations.
- Dominic Watt (July 2, 2020), The science of how you sound when you talk through a face mask, The Conversation, https://theconversation.com/the-science-of-how-you-sound-when-you-talk-through-a-face-mask-139817
- John Watters (June 23, 2020), How COVID-19 is unmasking my hearing loss, CBC – Point of View, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/masks-hearing-disability-pov-1.5612660