Masks, Hearing, and Hearing Aids- Oh my! How facemasks can reduce communication.

By, Kevin Kock, AuD

Since the start of COVID, many patients and families have been saying the same thing: “I cannot understand you with that mask on!” As a licensed audiologist, my response is that masks cover up visual cues (i.e. reading lips or facial expressions) that some people rely on. Not only do masks cover up people’s lips, there is data that indicates that masks reduce the loudness of speech. If you have a hearing loss, facemasks can add an extra challenge and reduce speech understanding.

For people with hearing difficulties, their brain already works hard to make sense of the speech and sounds around them. Without reading lips, many people’s brains have to work even harder to understand even the most basic conversations. In fact, many patients are reporting how frustrating and tiring it is to hear loved ones, grocery clerks, and health professionals. Some people feel that “clear” face masks help. For others, these clear masks are not enough. Fortunately, hearing aids can help!

But first, an audiologist should evaluate your hearing to see if a hearing loss is present and to learn more about situations where you are having trouble. Then, the audiologist will work with you to personalize a plan. Typically, this plan includes programming hearing aids to your specific hearing loss. With new technology, hearing aids have the option to be rechargeable and use Bluetooth technology, if wanted. If you experience frustration hearing people with face masks or hearing in general, an audiologist is here to help! To learn more, talk to an audiologist today.