Here’s what the ‘new normal’ can be like for people with hearing loss

The novel coronavirus has made life difficult for everyone. But for people with hearing loss, the pandemic poses unexpected challenges.

For those who have trouble following a conversation, it’s often impossible to move closer to the other person who’s speaking. When you are outside your “bubble”, physical-distancing protocols result in even more strain to hear what other people are saying. As a result, it’s easier for a person with hearing loss to feel even more isolated.

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And then, there are the masks. Not only do they muffle what store clerks and restaurant wait staff are saying, but they make it difficult to “read” faces. We get a lot of clues about a person’s intentions from their facial expressions. How do we interpret those clues if all we see are their eyes?

For those with hearing aids, taking a mask on and off can also pose some challenges.

But the “new normal” doesn’t have to mean accepting hardship as a way of life. For people with hearing loss, there are ways to mitigate its social and physical impacts.

“Hearing is more important than ever,” says Raphael Tayou of HearingLife Canada. “If hearing loss was an issue and you were relying on workarounds to overcome it, you can’t ignore it anymore. You need to address it.”

HearingLife has significantly improved its online resources. People can take a free online hearing test that takes only five minutes. They will be asked four simple questions about their hearing in everyday situations. Then they will listen to sounds played at different volumes, as well as several short conversations with a bit of background noise.

If the test reveals that the person is experiencing hearing loss, they can make an appointment with one of HearingLife’s hearing care providers. This initial consultation is free and will provide guidance on how best to move forward.

Safety protocols at each clinic include:

• limiting the number of clients at any given time

• sanitizing medical equipment and common areas between each appointment

• ensuring all staff are wearing protective gear and providing hand sanitizers at all stages of the visit

• conducting a COVID-19 pre-screening by phone before all appointments

HearingLife offers many tips on how to stay safe — and comfortable — while wearing your hearing aid and a mask:

• Consider a mask that ties behind the head rather than behind the ears

• Use a special mask extender which will hold the mask with buttons or other fasteners at the back of the head

• Attach your over-the-ear hearing aid to your glasses with a small elastic band to keep them in place

• Put on and remove masks carefully, and check your hearing devices each time

It also recommends exploring Bluetooth options, which allow you to hear music, take phone calls and listen to TV audio.

If you want your “new normal” to include better hearing, visit HearingLife Canada for your free online test or to book an appointment. You can also call 1-888-514-9515.

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