Masks, social distancing make communication harder for those with hearing loss

Face shields, masks with clear centre marketed to help people who rely on lip reading

For people in the deaf or hard of hearing communities the pandemic has created additional challenges for communication.

Alexandria McGarva, who is hard of hearing, has stopped going to public places she’s unfamiliar with because of the additional struggles created by social distancing and wearing a mask.

McGarva, who is also the director of the young adult network for the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association, can only hear people from about a metre away, so keeping the six feet between her and other people as mandated by social distancing regulations makes communicating even more “anxiety-inducing.”

READ ALSO: BC Ferries passengers must now bring masks, face coverings for longer trips

“[While in the grocery store lineup] I kept dropping stuff and another customer said something and I couldn’t understand,” she says, adding that she could only use the top half of the other customer’s face to try to decipher what was said. “I was like I think she’s laughing or said a funny joke, so we laughed together but I have no idea what she said.”

Victoria Audiologist Edward Storzer in the Island Deaf and Hard of Hearing clinic sitting outside the sound booth. Plexiglas separates him from clients and he wears a shield so clients can see his full face during their appointment. (Provided by Kristi Falconer)
Victoria Audiologist Edward Storzer in the Island Deaf and Hard of Hearing clinic sitting outside the sound booth. Plexiglas separates him from clients and he wears a shield so clients can see his full face during their appointment. (Provided by Kristi Falconer)

Kristi Falconer, communications manager for the Island Deaf and Hard of Hearing Centre, says there are a few solutions to the issue.

“Things like the shields that are all clear … those are ideal,” she says, adding that’s what staff at IDHHC wear. “That allows the individual to be able to see the mouth, see the whole facial expressions and be able to get that communication that they need to be able to piece together spoken word.”

READ ALSO: Dispose of your face masks safely, top doctor urges Canadians

Another option being marketed are masks that have a clear plastic cover over the mouth so people can lip read.

McGarva has mixed opinions about those but thinks it’s a step in the right direction.

“Lipreading is only a small aspect of what I do to understand what I hear, most is reading the rest of the face,” she says. “… Things like how big the mask window is, glare, how crumpled it is and how much fabric blocks the face affects my perspective – the less fabric, the bigger the window, the better.”

McGarva hopes businesses especially take her message to heart because “you really only get one chance.” She says one of the main reasons she goes to a limited number of places because she feels like the staff at said places have the”patients to communicate with her.”

“It’s important for businesses to not over think things and for staff to relax and not show frustration,” she says, adding that her colleague at the Association put together a letter to business owners with a number of suggestions on how to be more accessible.


 

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.  
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

MP Morrison pushes for accountability following federal fiscal update

Kootenay-Columbia parliamentarian says it is time to restart the economy

UPDATED: Interior Health to add 495 long-term seniors care beds

Nelson, Kelowna, Kamloops, Vernon and Penticton to receive new facilities

No changes coming to Fernie’s Second Avenue

Following a public survey, council holds off on repurposing Second Avenue

Tourism ramps back up in the Elk Valley

Heading into phase three, Tourism Fernie kicks off various inititives supporting local businesses

Business Beat

Coal Valley Boxing reopens to public Fernie and Sparwood’s Coal Valley Boxing… Continue reading

Wage subsidy will be extended until December amid post-COVID reopening: Trudeau

Trudeau said the extension will ‘give greater certainty and support to businesses’

Tree planters get help with COVID-19 protective measures

Ottawa funds extra transportation, sanitizing for crews

Trudeau apologizes for not recusing himself from WE decision

He says his and his family’s longtime involvement with the WE organization should have kept him out of the discussions

Beverly Hills 90210 star’s family selling Vancouver Island Beach Resort

You can own Jason Priestley’s Terrace Beach Resort in Ucluelet for less than $5 million

New comet appears in pre-dawn sky above Cranbrook

Neowise can be seen without a telescope over the next couple of weeks

Islanders want BC Ferries to follow order that lets residents board before tourists

For ferry-dependent communities, ferries are often the sole practical lifeline to work, school or medical appointments.

Washington’s NFL team drops ‘Redskins’ name after 87 years

The franchise was given the name back in 1933, when it was still in Boston

Most Read