Hi Audiology Folks! I hope this blog finds you all enjoying cool breezes, relatively healthy, happy, and wearing a mask! I know it’s a been a minute since we were able to chat here, but as we make our way into the beautiful Minnesota fall, I’ve got a timely topic to discuss.
This blog will cover a topic at the forefront of many conversations we are having everyday now: how to cope with communicating while wearing a mask. Otherwise known as? We don’t know what we’ve got till it’s gone.
Prior to the need to wear masks while communicating, people, even those people with normal hearing, used visual cues, lipreading, and facial expressions to clue themselves into what people are saying. Every person uses tone, body language, contextual cues to communicate. Above all, the message being conveyed must be audible and accessible to both parties.
The problem is, while masks are so important for our safety and well-being right now, they are also taking away many of these cues. That’s a problem even for those of us with normal hearing, and The presence of a hearing loss severely compounds these difficulties because they are already processing a degraded signal (tone, audibility, or clarity might already be inaccessible). There is no magic fix for this – this is something we are all going to have to deal with together. HOWEVER, (and note the use of capitalization for emphasis because that is a BIG however), your friendly neighborhood audiologist is here with some tips and tricks to try and help everybody out!
- We all need to harken back to those high school drama or choir days of old and project from thediaphragm!
- This tip is not necessarily about being SO MUCH LOUDER – it is much more about making sureyou enunciate and speak clearly
- When in doubt, slow it down, hit those consonants hard, and pretend like you’re talking through cloth – wait! You don’t have to pretend – you ARE talking through cloth!
- Quick clarification on the use of the word slow with regards to speech: when I say slow, I don’t mean slooooowwww motion where speech becomes meaningless and unintelligible.
- I mean the following: make sure that each word is separated, that your meaning is clear, and that people have time to absorb your message.
Per the article below, they’ve done the research, and quantified just how much sound pressure we’re losing behind our masks – we can each do our part to try and get some of that sound pressure back safely (read: while wearing a mask).https://www.hearingreview.com/hearing-loss/health-wellness/how-do-medical-masks-degrade-speech-reception
- Going for controversial with this one: crow's feet are a blessing! Smile with your eyes! Thoselaugh lines will let everyone know you're still having a good time behind your mask.
- For those of you in the audience with hearing loss – many hearing aid manufacturers have now had time to develop recommendations or even updated algorithms to help your hearing aids cope with having to work harder to pick up speech. Talk to your audiologist or hearing instrument specialist about what strategies are available for your specific hearing aids!
- For those times when someone asks “what”, more than once:
- Take a deep breath, resist the urge to make your voice uncomfortably loud, and instead, reach for an old communication classic: instead of repeating the phrase that hasn’t worked – rephrase!
- If you’re really going for extra credit, try to think about the types of sounds that you are using: consonant sounds like “t”, “th”, “s”, “sh” are intrinsically difficult, because they are naturally high- pitched, they carry very little volume, and they don’t use vocal cords to back them up, so they are difficult on multiple levels. And that was true before we all put masks on.
Tip 5 – This one is the biggie, Audiology folks
- The ultimate communication tip your friendly neighborhood audiologist has for everybody today?
- Be patient, and be kind with one another, because none of this is easy.
- We are all carving out a path together – let’s pave that path with kindness and mutual respect.
As always – stay safe, be well, and remember that at Andros Audiology and Hearing Aid Center, we’re here to help.