Quarantining at home, wearing masks, staying distant – we’ve made some major adjustments during this time. For those who are at risk due to underlying conditions, it can be a dangerous time, and for those with hearing loss, it can be a challenging time. Whether you are staying home or need to go out in public, here are some ideas for navigating COVID-19 with hearing loss.
What to do when you leave the house
Wear a button or carry a card explaining your hearing loss. Every time you go grocery shopping or head into your essential workplace, you are met with face masks and muffled voices at every turn. While masks do their part in preventing the spread of COVID-19, they also provide multiple layers of barriers for voices to push through in order to be heard. If your hearing is already declining, the barriers certainly don’t help things. And often when you ask someone to repeat themselves, their first inclination is to pull away their mask in order to magnify their voice which puts you at risk.
Instead of repeating yourself and explaining your situation day after day, consider buying a button to pin to your mask stating you are hard of hearing. Some read “Please speak louder, clearly and face me” or simply “hearing impaired.” Shops like Etsy and Zazzle sell versions, or if you know someone with a button maker, choose your own design! The pins alleviate some stress that comes with asking for accommodations and lets others know they need to alter their volume without you saying a word. The Center for Hearing Loss Help also prints cards for your wallet or car dashboard to let people know you have special communication needs.
What to do if you are staying home
Ask family and friends to Zoom or FaceTime. This can be an especially lonely time when you are told to limit your time outside the home and every outing you planned gets cancelled. If you find yourself in a situation of isolation, turn to technology to bridge the gap. Unfortunately, downloading a new app, creating an account, and starting a meeting can often be overwhelming, so don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
Once you are in a virtual meetup, ask everyone to turn on their cameras so you can read lips and follow the conversation as well as who is talking. You can also wear headphones to increase the volume or connect Bluetooth hearing aids to your device to cancel out background noise. In certain apps, you can also use a chat feature where you can type questions and read answers instead of struggling to hear vocal responses.
The American Psychological Association drew connections between social isolation and decreased mental health, increased poor physical health behaviors, and negative immune system functioning. That means even if you can’t seem people face to face, you still need to be social in order to keep yourself happy and healthy. Technology may just be the key to that socialization.
No matter where you are in this unique pandemic, we hope you stay safe and stay healthy.