We all know that the masks we are wearing now to help stop the spread of COVID-19 make it more difficult to hear and understand what is being said. Masks make it harder to hear and understand speech for a couple of different reasons. They muffle the speaker’s voice and make high-pitched sounds softer. Masks also take away our ability to speech read, which is where you take cues from your communication partner’s facial expressions and body language to help you understand better. This experience is even more difficult for people with hearing loss and can impact their understanding even more so.
Here are some ways you can help make sure your child understands as much as possible while we are all wearing masks and social distancing:
- Make sure you have your communication partner’s attention. It is much easier to understand what is being said if you are cued in from the beginning! Say your communication partner’s name before you start talking about the topic.
- Use clear speech. This technique can be helpful in general when talking with a person with hearing loss. Talk a little louder, a little slower, and pause at meaningful places in your speech.
- Use your hands and your body language. It’s part of speech reading! Use what we can while our faces are partially obscured.
- Use visual cues. If you are talking about something and can use a specific gesture to make yourself clearer, do so.
- Don’t be afraid to ask your communication partner if they understood what you said. It is easier to repair communication breakdowns in the moment and make sure you are both still on the same page instead of waiting until the end of the conversation and realizing you didn’t understand anything!
- If your communication partner doesn’t understand what you said, try to rephrase and say it a different way instead of just repeating yourself. This will add more detail to the message and give them a better chance of understanding.
- Move to a quiet place if you can. Background noise always makes listening more difficult! So while we are wearing masks, try to limit background noise as much as possible.
The most important thing to remember when communicating is to be patient. Communication breakdowns are frustrating for both parties, and it is important that we all realize that communication will be more difficult for everyone. The more we work to prevent these communication breakdowns, we more fruitful conversations we will have with one another.