Hearing loss and the pandemic

Learning how to communicate with hearing loss is challenging. And with the pandemic triggering feelings of stress and anxiety, many hearing-impaired individuals are feeling more isolated than ever before

The coronavirus and hearing loss has felt like a lot to manage for many living with the symptoms, especially for those who are new to it. From face masks to online learning and social distancing, the impact has been detrimental for many…

The impact on students

‘Deaf people have faced serious challenges during the coronavirus pandemic,’ Beccy Forrow, Campaign Lead at the National Deaf Children’s Society, told us. ‘With friends and family shut away from each other, phone calls and group video calls have become even more popular, but both are difficult for deaf people to access. It’s left them more at risk of isolation and loneliness as a result.’

And, after most schools in the UK transitioned to online learning, it’s been reported that 74% of hearing-impaired students have struggled to keep up with their peers. With the COVID-19 pandemic, many are also lacking accessibility to resources. Battling background noise, difficulties with live captioning and many voices talking at the same time, online learning isn’t the solution for everyone. ‘Class discussions can be difficult online,’ Monica Costa from London Mums Magazine told us, ‘And with some students turning off their cameras and not showing their faces, hearing-impaired individuals are struggling to cope.’

But students aren’t the only ones affected by the pandemic, especially since the use of face masks has increased. While these are necessary to limit the potential spread of the virus, there have been many challenges for the hearing-impaired as they attempt to communicate in a newly masked world. Andrew Thomas, Chairman of IHLMA told us, ‘In these challenging times, we are all facing an uncertain future of what lies ahead. For people with hearing loss, the COVID-19 epidemic has added even more demands on how they go about their daily lives.’

Communication challenges

Without the ability to lipread or see one’s facial expressions, communication has become increasingly difficult over the last few months. And while multiple individuals have created face masks with clear windows, not every single person has access to these, in particular, the general public. Also, many people believe these tailored masks are made for the hearing community, which couldn’t be further from the truth – as those who rely on lip reading need everyone to wear them. Add to this the laws of social distancing and it’s easy to see why those who are hard of hearing are facing communication barriers caused by the pandemic.

‘If face coverings become widespread, new challenges will emerge for deaf people because lip-reading and interpreting visual cues will become impossible,’ Beccy says, ‘The Government needs to make transparent face masks widely available, but in the meantime, deaf awareness is key. Using gestures, writing things down and considering a deaf person’s needs will make a world of difference.’

Alongside these separate challenges, the community have faced hearing shop closures too, resulting in poorer support and less help for those who need it. With cancelled routine hearing care appointments and hearing tests cancelled, difficulties seeing audiologists in a private consultation room and delayed hearing aid repairs, many individuals have felt left out in the cold, isolated and secluded. And while the shops are gradually reopening in June, there will no doubt be a backlog of patients who need to be seen.

‘As we head back to some form of normality, there is a greater need for organisations to become more socially aware of their responsibilities to ensure their environments are accessible to people with hearing loss,’ explains Andrew. ‘This can be achieved through the use of various forms of existing technology, with solutions that will assist both individuals and service providers.’

To find out how Conversor can help with your hearing loss during the pandemic and beyond, call 01483 608 404 today and take their communication one step further