Coronavirus and hearing loss

The Coronavirus pandemic impacted greatly on the way we all lived. The UK, along with the rest of the world, adopted new ways of living to combat the spread of the virus such as social distancing and use of face coverings and masks in public places.

Vaccines and other precautions are helping society to learn to live with Coronavirus. However, some of these precautions such as face coverings and masks are less common in general public, but may still be used in healthcare settings.

While these are essential and sensible precautions to reduce the spread of Coronavirus, these can have unintended consequences for people who are deaf or living with hearing loss.

Face coverings and lipreading

The use of face masks / coverings in some public services can cause a barrier for individuals who rely on lipreading.

They reduce clarity of speech and being unable to see mouth or facial expressions makes it impossible for people who lipread or use British Sign Language (BSL) to communicate effectively. This could pose a risk to their health and safety.

Face masks / coverings can also make people with hearing loss feel isolated and anxious, and too worried to leave their homes, in case they are not able to communicate with others if they need to.

If you are struggling to communicate while out and about, here are some things that could help you:

Accessible face coverings: There are many types of lipreading-friendly face coverings available online, from clear window masks to face shields, visors and fully transparent alternatives. By wearing a transparent face mask, such as the ClearMask™ or windowed alternatives such as Clear Expression Face Coverings, you will be helping to reduce the barriers that lipreaders and BSL users face, making their lives much easier. And, if you rely on lipreading yourself, and you wish to continue to use a face covering in public, you could benefit from one which alerts others to your communication needs, such as the ‘I have hearing loss and I lipread’ face covering (pictured).

Communication cards There are free and purchasable cards that you can obtain to alert others to your communication needs. Selecting an option depending on your communication needs, can help to relay to others what support you need. There are different messaging alternatives available to buy for poeple who are deaf, have hearing loss, or rely on lipreading. You can also create your own specific card via the Hidden Disabilities Store.

Deaf awareness products: There are discreet and visual ways of alerting others to your communication needs. By wearing a pin badge, wristband or lanyard with supporting communication card it will tell others that you are deaf, have a hearing loss or rely on lipreading. If you are a business or frontline health worker you might also want to consider wearing a badge that encourages lipreaders to ask for assistance. The ‘If you need to lipread me badge’ is a great option for you, your staff or colleagues to wear to assist with communication. Visit our online shop to browse our full range of products.

You can also find out useful tips for communicating with lipreaders on the Hearing Dogs website.

Losing hearing aids

With increased use of face masks/ coverings, hearing aid users are more at risk of losing their hearing aids accidentally.

RNID has produced an information video, which details ways to keep your hearing aids safe while face coverings are mandatory. Visit their website for their subtitled video.

You can also reduce the risk of losing your hearing aid with a securing clip. The HEAR Ear is designed for Behind the Ear (BTE) hearing aids. This is a great tool if you frequently wear face coverings or you or a loved are prone to losing hearing aids.

Or you can consider wearing a face mask extender which keeps the straps of a face covering away from your ears, reducing the risk of losing your hearing aids. These are available from many online retailers.

Hearing access

The Coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we live our lives with a greater reliance on video and telephone calls.

This can create anxiety for people who are unable to hear well on the telephone or are unsure how to access communication support such as subtitles, captions or BSL interpretation.

Mum of two Amy Morton, started her Living with Hearing Loss campaign to raise awareness of face masks and coverings, and also encourage businesses to be lipreading-friendly for people with hearing loss. Find out more about her campaign here.

Can COVID 19 cause hearing loss?

New research led by The University of Manchester and the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Manchester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) scientists, shows that hearing loss is unlikely to be caused by Covid-19. You can read the full research here: Pre-registered controlled comparison of auditory function reveals no difference between hospitalised adults with and without COVID-19

Useful articles

NHS: How to wash your hands

Healthy Hearing: COVID-19 and hearingloss – what do we know?

Age UK: Coronavirus guidance

Which?: Clear face masks, what to know before you buy.

This article contains links to external websites. Hearing Dogs for Deaf People and Hearing Link Services are not responsible for the content of these sites.

Webpage updated: July 2023

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