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10/29/20 blog post

best ways to speak to people with hearing loss when wearing a mask

Individuals with hearing loss face difficulties when listening to someone who is wearing a mask. Facial expressions are also more difficult to read.

Mask wearers create issues for those with hearing loss who lipread; voices are often distorted and lower in volume as well. For individuals with hearing loss, speech from those wearing a mask could almost be unintelligible during conversations.

If you are someone with hearing loss, whether in a hospital or public setting, speak up for yourself. When talking to hospital staff or others like restaurant servers, retail staff and similar, let them know you can't hear well and need them to speak more clearly.

If you're the one trying to speak to someone with hearing loss, "use some creativity to get your meaning conveyed, instead of repeating the same misunderstood phrases over and over again," recommends Dr. Mandy Mroz, AuD, president of Healthy Hearing. "Don't underestimate the power of body language, eye contact and slowing down speech to be more clear." 

"Speakers often naturally try to compensate by projecting, but a more effective approach is to speak more clearly, with greater enunciation," explains Nicole Marrone, PhD, associate professor in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences at the University of Arizona.

Here are suggestions when conversing with those who have hearing loss in a public or hospital setting:

  • In a hospital setting, ask for ASL communication if preferred
  • Reduce the room noise if possible
  • Always speak slowly and clearly
  • Do not shout at them (often uncomfortable for those w/hearing loss)
  • Make sure loved ones are using their hearing devices
  • Remarks not understood should be rephrased differently
  • Only one person at a time speaking to individual
  • Always face the individual while speaking
  • Ask them to repeat back what you said to confirm your message is being understood
  • Masks with clear plastic area make lipreading easier
  • When applicable, use your smart device to voice-to-text your message or write it down

Judy Mosher

The Craniofacial Center patient specialist
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