The Covid-19 pandemic not only poses a health risk for our entire population, it also increases the risk of losing hearing aids for those of us who wear masks.
Wearing a mask with behind the ear hearing aids certainly poses a new challenge. The removal of the mask can dislodge hearing aids. We suspect the ear loops on the masks are the cause of hearing aids to unknowingly come off the ear. While everyone is being mindful of handwashing and contact with others, hearing aids are probably the last thing on your mind when you are focused on getting in and out of public places safely and quickly. Since the use of a mask is now common, we have already received quite a few calls from patients who have lost hearing aids by wearing or removing a mask. This has resulted in our having placed more lost hearing aid insurance claims over the past month than ever before. Most of our patients are quarantining at home and have lost their hearing aids during a brief outing to the grocery store or to attend a doctor’s appointment.
We are recommending that when you remove your mask, you should check that your hearing aids are still on your ears. Whether your mask is homemade or store-bought, the ties or straps may easily get hooked on your hearing aids and dislodge the devices. Make sure your hearing aids are still in place before you leave any location. You can also secure a mask by using an elastic or a band that fits around your head, not over your ears.
Thankfully, most hearing aids come with a warranty that includes repair and loss coverage and patients can usually have their lost hearing aids replaced easily. Always have your provider check with the manufacturer of your hearing aids to determine if you have replacement coverage available.
Also, the use of a mask has one unintended consequence: interfering with communication. Most of my audiology patients complain that they understand less if they are unable to watch the speaker’s lips. Technically, it is not lipreading alone that facilitates communication but the listener’s ability to view facial expressions. Speakers wearing a mask do not allow for someone to see half their face, the most important part to facilitate communication.
While masks are now a vital health care tool for many people, their use presents a new set of challenges for hard of hearing people, especially ones that depend upon hearing aids.
Only a fraction of English speech is visible on the lips, but that along with the listener’s ability to integrate auditory information completes the communication cycle. For some hearing impaired, especially the elderly, looking at the speaker’s face can make a huge difference. In today’s society it seems normal for people to speak rapidly and not move their lips. People with a hearing loss often have difficulty understanding rapid speech without visual cues as well as the speakers on the television. About 15 percent of the adult American population reports having a hearing loss and a much smaller percentage of these use hearing devices to treat their hearing loss. With the likelihood that face masks will become part of our culture in the future, the need for audiological testing and, in many cases hearing aid use will become more prevalent.
Our world is very different today and we have to adapt to meet the new challenges that the world is currently presenting to us.
Ocala’s Only Family Owned Hearing Care Provider with 2 Locations.
4620 E Silver Springs Blvd #501, Ocala, FL 34470
4414 SW College Rd #1530, Ocala, FL 34474