Being able to communicate is a skill that we start developing at an early age, and one that is continually being improved upon throughout our lives. From early childhood throughout adulthood, exchanging information or ideas between one another, is essential to the foundation of relationships. Communication, whether it be vocal, written, visual or non-verbal, brings people together and bridges the gap between individuals through the flow of information and understanding between them. If there is ever a time that people need to be brought together, it is the present, the new normal. Everyone is trying to navigate the most efficient and effective way to handle the global coronavirus pandemic.

One initiative set forth by health and government authorities for the pandemic is to wear masks when going out in public. This initiative is not only recommended but also mandated in certain places, to prevent the spread of coronavirus. While experts may still be debating if a mask is an effective barrier against the spread of the virus, those in the deaf and hard of hearing community can agree masks are a barrier to communication. Some people with hearing impairments rely heavily on non-verbal communication, such as, lip reading and facial expressions, which is not possible when wearing a mask. Masks also muffle words, making it even harder for people with hearing impairments to hear another person speaking. Masks are a roadblock in communication for people with hearing impairments which adds another layer of stress to this population, especially throughout this pandemic.

Here are some ideas to help people who are deaf or who have some hearing loss:

Mask Alternatives

The TrueHero™ Extreme Coverage Face Shield is a clear, plastic face covering which displays the person’s face in order for other people to effectively lip read and/or see his or her  facial expressions. According to the company, droplets cannot seep through plastic, making it a viable and affordable alternative to medical masks and N95 respirators.

Be Prepared

Print out a card, stating you are hearing impaired which aids in communicating with others outside your environment due to a mask barrier. This written identification allows others to understand the situation, especially if you are in a hospital, doctor’s office or any other setting that does not allow someone to accompany you. Here is an example of a sample placard from the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA).

Take Advantage of Technology

Coronavirus increased the amount of video-call technology instead of getting together in person. Zoom, a video conference company, which has gained popularity throughout the pandemic, has some useful, accessibility features, including subtitles and automatic transcripts to help communicate. When using video conferencing, people are most likely in their own home, free of a mask, allowing lip reading and facial expressions much more apparent and accessible.

Fear and anxiety over coronavirus are already a stress factor.  Adding to that the stress of not being able to communicate effectively can certainly add to one’s stress. Hopefully, we can continue to communicate the importance of making communication easier for people with hearing impairments during the pandemic.

© 2020 Silver Disobedience Inc.