Your Covid-19 questions answered

How has the 'new normal' affected the hearing-impaired?

Kyle Zeeman Digital Editor
The hearing-impaired were affected by the health regulations to curb the spread of the Covid-19.
The hearing-impaired were affected by the health regulations to curb the spread of the Covid-19.
Image: 123RF

Health measures introduced to try curb the spread of Covid-19 had a detrimental effect on the hearing-impaired, one study has found.

The study, published in the Trends in Hearing journal found the restrictions, including mask-wearing and social distancing, “caused a profound changes to patterns of daily-life communication”.

It surveyed listening difficulties under four communication scenarios commonly experienced during the pandemic, specifically when talking: with someone wearing a face mask, under social/physical distancing guidelines, via telephone, and via video call.

“Results from 94 respondents indicated that people considered their in-person listening experiences in some common everyday scenarios to have been significantly worsened by the introduction of mask-wearing and physical distancing.”

It found it was particularly difficult for those who lip-read or have hearing difficulties.

“Participants reported experiencing an array of listening difficulties, including reduced speech intelligibility and increased listening effort, which resulted in many people actively avoiding certain communication scenarios at least some of the time.

“Participants also found listening effortful during remote communication, which became rapidly more prevalent after the outbreak of the pandemic.”

It emphasised the importance of visual cues, including lip-reading and live speech-to-text transcriptions, to improve communication during the pandemic.

Audiologist at the University of Pennsylvania Health System Jamie Guinan highlighted these and other difficulties, and called on those who were struggling during the pandemic to get a hearing test.

She said it is important to be patient with those struggling to hear and communicate effectively during the pandemic.

“For family members whose loved ones have experienced communication issues or hearing loss, I encourage you to be patient with your loved ones.

“Make sure that you are not only speaking clearly and trying to understand what your loved one is saying, but do your best to make the best of the situation you are in. Reduce background noise as much as possible and give the person your attention.”

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