Communication challenges during a pandemic

Jun 10, 2020

As audiologists, we are equipped with the knowledge for improving communication and are always keen to impart our knowledge to any of our patients with an ear to hear us. But what happens when our advice seems to contradict the advice of health experts during a pandemic?

We are frequently telling people to sit closer together to be able to hear each other and to lip-read. But with social distancing, erecting physical barriers and wearing face masks, it makes it even harder for individuals with hearing loss to hear conversation in everyday situations.

One of the most challenging listening situations we needed to counsel our patients through was being able to hear conversation when out in a café or restaurant with a group of friends. With less people out and about in social situations, it would be logical to think that our job has been made easier. But with phone appointments and video conferencing, there are new challenges to overcome.

So what can we do?

There are routine things that you can do such as book an appointment for a hearing test, hearing aid discussion or review of hearing aids. We can ensure that you are equipped with devices that are fine tuned to help you to hear well.
While it may be hard to lip read if somebody is wearing a mask, sometimes explaining that you have a hearing loss and asking them to speak louder and slower can help. This may also be useful if you are speaking to somebody behind a Perspex screen from a distance. You can try asking for key words to be repeated or asking them to re-phrase a part that you haven’t heard correctly.

In terms of technology, you may be able to find a speech-to-text app that can help you to maintain social distancing, while being able to read what somebody has said. You can also ask your audiologist to discuss Assistive Listening Devices with you, which may include amplified phones, personal amplifiers or TV devices. Or on the other end of the spectrum, the not quite extinct pen and paper may help you with clarifying important pieces of information that you have missed.

While it is commonly thought that an audiologist will test your hearing and then tell you to purchase expensive hearing aids, we are actually more than happy to test your hearing and then spend time having a chat with you about strategies that you can employ for your difficult situations.

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