From 11:59pm on Sunday 2 August 2020, everyone in the state of Victoria must wear a face covering whenever they leave home unless they have a lawful exemption. For those living in other states, such as NSW, wearing a face mask is recommended in situations where physical distancing may not be possible.
With these new rules put in place by the Victorian Chief Health Officer due to COVID-19, effectively communicating whilst wearing face masks and standing at least 1.5 metres apart can be difficult for everyone – especially those in the community who experience hearing loss. In fact, a combination of the social distancing restrictions and the new face mask mandate may have many in the community feeling even more anxious and isolated.
Whilst wearing a face covering can prevent the spread of the virus, it’s important to be aware that you may unintentionally be creating a situation where those in the deaf or hard-of-hearing community may have difficulty understanding you.
To help, we have developed a list of strategies to make these challenging times a little easier for everyone.
Communication challenges when wearing face masks
Many of you may know someone who relies heavily on lip reading in order to communicate. Others may depend on this in combination with other visual options, such as sign language, tone of voice and facial expressions.
While face masks muffle our voices and obstruct some of our facial features, there are some simple solutions that you can implement to communicate effectively with those with hearing difficulties.
Helpful tips for the public
Our 5 tips below will help you communicate more effectively in a mask to those around you who may be hard-of-hearing.
- Use visual cues: A simple wave can help let the person know that you are trying to get their attention or speak to them.
- Project your voice: While you don’t have to yell, you may need to raise your voice and speak a little louder than usual. It’s also a good idea to clearly enunciate each word and speak just a touch slower than you normally do.
- If possible, gesture with your hands: Many simple gestures are self-explanatory, and can be helpful when communicating. You don’t need to be fluent in sign language – it can be as simple as the “OK” symbol or a thumbs up to demonstrate satisfaction.
- Write it out: If possible or if the environment and context permits, you can write out what you are trying to say, whether it’s on paper or your smartphone.
- Rephrase if not understood: It’s natural to want to repeat yourself word-for-word if you are not understood the first time around. However, try to think of a different way to phrase your statement or question so that the message is received.
Helpful tips for the deaf and hard of hearing community
Communication is a two-way street. Keep in mind that through a face mask, it may also be difficult for the hard of hearing when they are trying to communicate back. If you are deaf or experience hearing loss, there are a few things that you can do to assist the other person that you wish to talk to:
- Don’t be afraid to speak up: Gently letting others know that you’re deaf or suffer from hearing loss will make them aware of your situation. It’s also okay to ask them to repeat what they have said to get some clarification if it is needed.
- Wear a mask that identifies your hearing impairment: This will come down to personal preference, of course, but it may be helpful for some if you can display that you are hearing impaired. You could even present a card that mentions your condition to bring awareness.
- Gesture with your hands: A simple way to politely let the speaker know that you cannot understand or hear is to gesture to your ear to indicate that you cannot understand what they are saying.
The bottom line
We are all in this together, and the best way to support each other is through patience, tolerance and compassion. It’s important to remember that what we are currently going through is temporary, and bloom™ hearing specialists is available to assist when needed.
Please contact our friendly customer service team on 1800 554 968 if you need some extra assistance, Alternatively, you can also book an appointment with your bloom hearing clinician.