Coping with Hearing Loss During the Pandemic
Dr. Susan B. Chunyk is featured in the Nov. 8th Sunday Republican’s “Better Health” section.
Our lives have all been changed in some way by COVID-19. Since the future course of the virus is still undetermined, now is a good time to think about the impact of the pandemic on family members and friends and consider ways to help them cope with the situation. For people with hearing loss, the pandemic has additional unexpected challenges. What are some of the issues faced by people with hearing loss and what can be done to improve their situation?
After months of being alone in a house or apartment, it is natural to feel lonely, bored, and depressed. Hearing loss compounds this feeling of isolation because it makes the individual feel disconnected with the world.
Regular interaction with other people, either in-person using social distancing or virtually through platforms such as Zoom or FaceTime.
Consistent use of your hearing aids, all day, even when you are alone. Awareness of everyday environmental sounds keeps you connected to the world.
If you have trouble understanding on the telephone, you might appreciate Bluetooth streaming from your smartphone directly into your hearing aids. If you prefer a landline, use of a speakerphone, amplified phone, or captioned telephone can make phone visits more enjoyable.
Problem: Putting off healthcare visits
Many people have postponed or canceled healthcare appointments, including visits to the Audiologist for hearing evaluations or routine hearing aid maintenance or adjustments.
In-person office appointments are available with safety protocols in place. You need not avoid a visit to the Audiologist for a hearing test, as we are taking precautions to keep everyone safe.
Contact-free drop-off service can be used for routine hearing aid cleaning and problems.
Remote support is available. Some hearing instruments can be reprogrammed remotely via an app on your smartphone.
When the speaker wears a mask, high-pitched speech sounds are absorbed by the mask, making it particularly difficult for a person with hearing loss to understand clearly. Low-pitched speech sounds become louder, making speech sound muffled. People with hearing loss depend on lipreading and facial expression to understand, but masks eliminate many of those visual cues.
Many people have lost their hearing aids when removing their masks. Interference among eyeglasses, hearing aids and mask ear loops creates a challenge.
Use caution when removing your mask, to avoid disturbing your hearing aids.
Clear masks, available for purchase online, allow for speechreading.
Consider a mask that ties behind your head or use a mask holder to position the loops away from your ears. Check online for creative ways to reposition the mask loops away from your ears.
The Audiologist can program special settings into your hearing aids to boost the lost high-pitched speech sounds and improve speech clarity. Ask for a “mask program”.
Family members and friends should use strategies to improve communication. These include: reduce background noise, get the person’s attention before beginning to speak, face the person, speak more slowly, and rephrase rather than repeat if the person does not understand.
If the pandemic has made you more aware of hearing difficulty, partner with us to learn how to navigate your communication challenges.
If you wish to book an appointment with an audiologist at Hampden Hearing Center, please call (413) 525-7979.