Communicating with Face Masks | A Personal Account

by | Jul 30, 2020 | Local News, Patient Resources | 0 comments

We all want to be as safe as we can, protecting ourselves from getting or spreading the Coronavirus by wearing face masks. For many states, it is now a legal requirement to wear a mask in public spaces.

An unfortunate result of face masks has been a breakdown in communication for those who struggle to hear well.

From the day that we are born, we are pre-programmed to study and recognize faces. It is one of the significant factors in learning how to communicate as a child and learn to recognize emotional cues; happy, sad, angry, etc. This ability to interpret these cues carries throughout our lives.

It is not surprising then that wearing a face mask suppresses these cues and, as a result, creates anxiety and frustration when communicating.

Picture of Mr. Dyle

Mr. Curtis Dyle got his first hearing aids about ten years ago but has been suffering from a hearing loss for 20 years. During an interview with KPLC 7 News about the difficulty of communicating with face masks, Mr. Dyle said that people with a hearing loss struggle more with understanding than with volume.

“It doesn’t do any good to speak a lot louder and think that will help them (People with a hearing loss). Face them straightforward and speak slowly and a little more clearly if you can,” he said.

Dr. Heidi Sorrells from Acadian hearing said that face masks create a huge problem for those with a hearing loss as it is a lot more challenging to gain meaning from context or facial cues. Face masks with a transparent window are better for communication and, if fitted properly, also give adequate protection from spreading coronavirus.

Masks stifle the voice and reduce the volume of speech, creating further difficulties, compounded with the reduction in facial cues and inability to read lips; this makes communication a considerable challenge for anyone who has a hearing loss.

Our objective at Acadian Hearing is to improve communication for our patients. If you or a loved one struggles to understand people more because of face masks, contact us. It may be that it is time for a comprehensive hearing assessment. Click here to read more about the difficulties that face masks bring to the hearing loss community and tips to overcome them.

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Dr. Heidi J Sorrells - Audiologist

Dr. Heidi J. Sorrells obtained her doctorate degree from Salus University in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, and master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Minot State University in Minot, North Dakota. She is a certified audiologist by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), and she holds a Louisiana and a Texas audiology license. Dr. Sorrells enjoys all aspects of working in a private practice audiology clinic but especially loves the challenges of vestibular (balance) assessment and rehabilitation.