We’re living in unprecedented times, which can be made even more nerve-racking for people with hearing loss. With all the talk of “preexisting conditions,” people with hearing loss might be extra scared for their health and safety during this pandemic. Audicus is here to calm your fears and give you the information you need to know about coronavirus (COVID-19) and hearing loss.
Does hearing loss make me more susceptible to COVID-19?
This is probably the biggest worry on your mind—Does my hearing loss make me more vulnerable to the virus? The answer is complicated, but in short: No. There is currently no direct link between having hearing loss and being more likely to contract COVID-19.
However, there are certain conditions that are linked to hearing loss that may negatively affect a person’s outcomes if they contract the virus. Hearing loss has been linked to heart disease, and the CDC has listed “serious heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies” as a cause for increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
Additionally, age-related hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss. You probably already know that older age groups are more likely to have serious illness or even die from COVID-19. People with hearing loss are likely to be in these older categories, so they have a higher risk because of their age—not their hearing loss.
How to plan ahead for COVID-19
No one ever plans to get sick. However, it’s good to have an emergency plan especially now. Hearing loss can make a hospital stay a lot more challenging, so preparedness and self-advocacy is key.
It’s important to know that hearing resources that are normally available may not be available now. Sign language interpreters, hand-held amplification devices, captioning or CART and other services may not be an option for you.
The Hearing Loss Association of America advises that people with hearing loss who have to go to the hospital do the following:
- Print out a page/medical placard saying you are deaf, hard of hearing, or DeafBlind and need hospital staff to communicate with you differently. View a sample page of a medical placard.
- If you have a smartphone, load the apps you need to communicate, and bring your smartphone (and a charger!) with you.
- View a list of apps.
- Test the apps at home before you go to the hospital.
- When you get to the hospital, ask hospital staff to let you use their WiFi, and to put you in an area with strong WiFi.
- Tell hospital staff to communicate with you through your smartphone with VRI or speech-to-text apps.
- If you do not have a smartphone, bring or ask hospital staff for something to write on and pens or markers.
- Bring an emergency bag with items you need to communicate. Label the bag and items with your name. Leave space on the label to add your hospital room number. The emergency bag can include:
- Paper and pens or markers
- Plugs and chargers for your smartphone
- Tablets and/or laptops and chargers
- An extension cord or power strip in case your bed is far from an outlet
- Extra eyewear supplies you might need, such as reading glasses to read the speech to text on a phone app
- Extra batteries for your hearing aid, cochlear implant, or assistive listening device
- A copy of your advance medical directive, if you have one. You can find more information and instructions to make an advance directive on AARP’s website
- Emergency contact information for family members or friends
How do I avoid getting COVID-19?
If you’ve made it to August, you’re probably an expert on social distancing and virus-avoidance strategies. But everyone is facing some measure of lockdown-fatigue, so we want to reiterate the guidelines on how to best avoid contracting or spreading coronavirus, because the most important tip is prevention.
- Wear a mask: in public indoor spaces and whenever required by your town or state
- Wash your hands: For a minimum of 20 seconds with soap and water, whenever you enter a new space or when you get home
- Social distance: Outside and inside when possible—keep a minimum of 6 feet of space in between you and anyone else
These are general guidelines; each state and town have different regulations so be aware of what’s allowed where you live. You can see the CDC’s entire list of preventive guidelines here.