Practical tips for communicating with face masks

Reading Time: 3 minutes
"by " Albert Stein

Face masks can be especially challenging for people with hearing loss, whether you use hearing aids or not. Here are two tips for how you can improve communication when wearing a face mask, as well as some specific tips for those wearing both face masks and hearing aids. 

Tip 1: Wearing a mask while using hearing aids

Wearing a face mask has become a common practice and will continue to be a requirement for a while. Therefore, it is important to feel as comfortable as possible when wearing hearing aids and face masks together. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:

  • Consider using a mask that can be tied behind the head rather than behind the ears

  • You can use a special mask extender that will hold the mask with buttons or other fasteners at the back of the head

  • If you wear glasses, attach your behind-the-ear hearing aid to your glasses with a small elastic band to be sure they are kept in place

  • When you put on and remove the mask, do it carefully, and always check that your hearing aids stay properly in place each time

  • If you wear in-the-ear hearing aids, then the elastic band on standard face masks will not interfere with any hearing aid parts (since these types of hearing aids are located entirely in the ear)


Tip 2: Communicate effectively in the current situation

Whether you have hearing difficulties or not, you subconsciously depend on being able to read the lips of the person talking, as it is an important part of non-verbal communication. However, face masks make lip-reading impossible, and it especially impacts people with a hearing loss. 

Here are a few tips for communicating while wearing face masks:

Be attentive 
If you have a hard time understanding the person that is speaking to you, ask them to rephrase the sentence instead of just repeating it. Ask people to speak loudly (without shouting).

Use other forms of communication 
Communicate using pen and paper, use your mobile or tablet audio recorder, or use a
virtual assistant.
Be mindful of distance 
As the distance between two people increases, the sound level drops, and visual signals are harder to decipher. 

Be visible 
Make sure you are facing the person that is talking to you.

Eliminate background noise 
Reduce ambient noise or move the conversation to a quiet place if possible.
Get someone to join the conversation 
Consider bringing company when going for an appointment where face masks are worn. Your friend can help you to decipher any misunderstood communication.