As the debate over face masks continues, few may realize how the coverings make it hard for the 48 million Americans with hearing loss to communicate with others.
Masks can muffle sound, making it more difficult to understand speech and higher-pitched voices; prevent the ability to read lips and see facial expressions, which help people with hearing loss better understand what they're hearing; and be uncomfortable for people with hearing aids or cochlear implants, hearing experts say.
"Widespread mask use at this critical juncture in the pandemic is key to protecting the public health, but we want to make everyone aware that masks can pose communication challenges for anyone -- especially people who are deaf or hard of hearing," said Theresa Rodgers, president of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).
"By taking some basic steps, everyone can do their part to help ensure those with hearing difficulties are better poised to successfully communicate in an environment where mask use is necessary," she added in a ASHA news release.
Here are some tips to improve communication when wearing a mask and talking to someone with hearing loss:
For people with hearing aids or cochlear implants, here are some tips on improving comfort when wearing a mask:
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on hearing loss.