By: Cecelia Ward, Audiologist (AuD, CCC-A, FAAA)
Wearing a mask has become a necessary part of everyday life in the past year. While they help to keep us safe, masks increase communication challenges for everyone, especially for people with hearing loss.
Why? Masks muffle the speaker’s voice, making it not only quieter, but less clear as well. They make it impossible for the listener to use facial expressions and lip reading. Additionally, masks with ear loops can interfere with behind-the-ear hearing aids and cochlear implants, sometimes putting pressure on the ears or causing hearing aids and cochlear implants to fall off the ear.
Masks and hearing aids
Unfortunately, some hearing aid users are reporting that they have stopped wearing their hearing aids when they have to wear a mask due to frustration and fear of losing an expensive hearing aid. While hearing aids might be safer at home, they’re not helping anyone sitting in a drawer. Leaving your hearing aids at home will make communication much more challenging. There are several adjustments hearing aid users can make to set themselves up for success when wearing hearing aids with a mask.
Tips for wearing your mask and hearing aids
- Wear a mask that can tie behind the head instead of ear loops.
- Use a mask extender to connect the ear loops of a mask behind your head or neck.
- Remove your mask carefully, checking that your hearing aids remained in place.
- Always take your mask off in the same location in your home. That way if your hearing aid has fallen off, you know where to start looking for it.
Both the speaker and the listener can work together to improve communication when wearing a mask. Here are some tips:
- Wear your hearing aids.
- Communication partners can wear a clear mask to help improve lip reading.
- Get a person’s attention before you start talking.
- Speak slower, don’t shout.
- Repeat, then if that doesn’t work, rephrase.
- Reduce background noise (turn off the TV, music).
Get help from your audiologist
Schedule an appointment with your audiologist or contact a HASA audiologist. He or she may be able to adjust your hearing aid programming or add a special ‘mask program’ to your hearing aid that can help improve speech clarity when communicating with someone wearing a mask. If your hearing aids connect to your smartphone, your audiologist can show you the features within the hearing aid app that may help you hear better through a mask.
If you feel you might want additional security when wearing your hearing aids with a mask, your audiologist can help you find a solution that works for your specific hearing aid. There are retention strings that loop around the hearing aid and clip to your shirt collar. Sometimes wig tape can be used as well.
In the unfortunate event that your hearing aid is lost, hearing aids typically come with a one-time loss replacement warranty. You can also purchase an extended loss warranty through a third party company if your original warranty has expired.
Having to use something that constantly interferes with your ability to communicate effectively can be frustrating. While it may be tempting to just stop wearing your hearing aids while wearing a mask, keeping your hearing aids in your ears is more important now than ever. It may take some trial and error to find a solution that works best for you.
If you are not comfortable scheduling an in-person appointment with your audiologist, a telehealth video visit may be an available option. Your audiologist always wants to know when you are having any difficulties with your hearing aids. We are here to help!