The COVID-19 pandemic has brought new trials and routines to many of us, as we learn to adapt to things like quarantine, physical distancing, and yes, face masks. Use of face masks has become increasingly common in public places, even required in many states, including Virginia, but face masks pose unique challenges to those who have hearing loss. Face masks can muffle sound up to 8-10 decibels and eliminate facial and lip reading cues for people who rely on them to aid in communication.
Unfortunately, hearing aid users face another challenge with face masks. The most common style of face mask, the kind with elastic that loops over the ears, often competes for space with behind-the-ear hearing aids, and puts them at risk for dislodging when removing the mask. Here are some tips for successful mask/hearing aid cohabitation:
- Choose a mask that goes over the head, or ties in the back. This is the easiest solution.
- If you have hair that can be pulled back, pull it back into a bun or a ponytail, and loop the earloops over the bun.
- Choose something like an “ear saver” to loop the elastic over behind the head. If you don’t have an ear saver, you can make one by sewing buttons on each end of a four inch piece of ribbon, and loop the elastic loops over the buttons.
- When removing your mask, especially in public, remove the loops carefully, and verify that your hearing aids are still in place.
If you do happen to misplace a hearing aid, retrace your steps. Recruit a friend or family member to go with you. Remember that many hearing aids that are compatible with smartphones have a “find my hearing devices” feature on their app that can help you narrow down your search. And don’t forget to contact your hearing healthcare provider to find out if you are covered under any loss and damage warranty.