Does wearing Face Masks hinder the hearing environment ?

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November 26, 2020

With the rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen an exponential increase in the use of face masks among the public. Wearing face masks is considered a vital preventive measure as it will protect us from contracting the virus from others on the other hand it will prevent from spreading the virus to others.

Though wearing face masks can lead to some negative consequences which vastly affect the individuals with hearing impairment as it interrupts their communication. Because they majorly depend on lip reading, gestures, facial expressions, and body language of the speaker during the conversation.

Face mask affects both the speaker as well as the listener because the speaker might have difficulty breathing with the mask on their face and speech will be muffled which will reduce the clarity of speech and speech understanding by the listener.

According to the World Health Organization Over 5% of the world’s population that is 466 million people are hearing impaired. Hearing loss will result in communication breakdown which leads to emotional overlays. This is commonly faced by older adults since it causes adverse effects in their mental health due to poor social interaction, inferiority complex, anxiety syndrome, isolation, frustration eventually leading to depression. Due to the stigma towards hearing aids many individuals with hearing loss who were able to manage without any amplification now experience a challenging environment in the new normal situation with face masks.

Research by Dr. Frank Lin and his colleagues from John Hopkins reveals mild hearing loss doubled dementia risk. Moderate loss tripled risk, and people with severe hearing impairment were five times more likely to develop dementia. Hence, individuals with dementia should be given enough support from their caregivers and they should be reminded from time to time about their hearing aid and mask.

Many guidelines can be followed while wearing masks along with the hearing aids. Audiologists/ Hearing care professionals usually teach their patients to wear hearing aids along with masks and it is also important to check the hearing level and providing amplification as it will help you to improve your quality of life.  

Dharunniya Komaleswaran 

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