FOR the hearing impaired the use of PPE in medical and community settings causes a block to communication as they make lip reading impossible while potentially muffling sounds.
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Local Simone Jolly RN is an Audiologist practicing at Salamander Bay who is passionate about improving communication.
Using a facemask with a clear plastic window makes it possible for those who lip read to be able to communicate in healthcare and community settings.
Simone Jolly told News Of The Area, “The communicator-style face masks are hard to buy in Australia, but there are some places online selling versions of them.“
Simone has been proactive and made her own when she found that her clients were unable to hear me when I wore surgical or paper masks.
As current guidelines are that cloth masks are an acceptable option for masks, there are free patterns online for a few styles of masks with windows to help the hearing impaired.
One site with a free pattern is https://www.hsdc.org/accessible-deaf-friendly-face-mask/ “Masks are believed to reduce the spread of the virus, but they can significantly degrade the clarity of the speech signal and reduce the volume by about 12dB, as well as preventing the listener from using lip cues to assist hearing.”
Standing 1.5m apart on top of this further compounds these issues.
Simone shared the following strategies that might help if you are speaking with a hearing impaired person and only have a normal mask to use include asking the person what their preferred method of communication would be – a lot of hearing impaired people are used to letting people know their communication needs; make sure you get the person’s attention before speaking; use visual cues; speak slowly and louder than normal (but don’t shout as this distorts the sound); use writing, text or a transcription App to enable the person to read the message (an example of a transcription app is Google Transcribe or for Live Transcribe).
It is also important to be patient and allow the person to ask for repetitions if needed and find a different way of repeating information if they miss it the first time.
We should remember that background noise can make it harder to hear and if it is safe use a communicator style face mask or face shield.
For those who are hearing impaired it is important to let people know about your hearing loss and to consider other methods of communication.
Simone implores people to wear their hearing aids if they have them as this will they help you hear but they also let others know that you have a hearing impairment.
“Get your hearing aids checked by your hearing care provider if you are having difficulty – ask whether there are other devices such as microphones that can be used in conjunction with your hearing aids that might help you hear over distance, and don’t be afraid to ask people to repeat something if you didn’t hear it” she said.
Simone reminds us all to be kind to ourselves and each other in these challenging times.
By Marian SAMPSON