Masks, social distancing make communication harder for those with hearing loss

Face shields, masks with clear centre marketed to help people who rely on lip reading

For people in the deaf or hard of hearing communities the pandemic has created additional challenges for communication.

Alexandria McGarva, who is hard of hearing, has stopped going to public places she’s unfamiliar with because of the additional struggles created by social distancing and wearing a mask.

McGarva, who is also the director of the young adult network for the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association, can only hear people from about a metre away, so keeping the six feet between her and other people as mandated by social distancing regulations makes communicating even more “anxiety-inducing.”

READ ALSO: BC Ferries passengers must now bring masks, face coverings for longer trips

“[While in the grocery store lineup] I kept dropping stuff and another customer said something and I couldn’t understand,” she says, adding that she could only use the top half of the other customer’s face to try to decipher what was said. “I was like I think she’s laughing or said a funny joke, so we laughed together but I have no idea what she said.”

Victoria Audiologist Edward Storzer in the Island Deaf and Hard of Hearing clinic sitting outside the sound booth. Plexiglas separates him from clients and he wears a shield so clients can see his full face during their appointment. (Provided by Kristi Falconer)
Victoria Audiologist Edward Storzer in the Island Deaf and Hard of Hearing clinic sitting outside the sound booth. Plexiglas separates him from clients and he wears a shield so clients can see his full face during their appointment. (Provided by Kristi Falconer)

Kristi Falconer, communications manager for the Island Deaf and Hard of Hearing Centre, says there are a few solutions to the issue.

“Things like the shields that are all clear … those are ideal,” she says, adding that’s what staff at IDHHC wear. “That allows the individual to be able to see the mouth, see the whole facial expressions and be able to get that communication that they need to be able to piece together spoken word.”

READ ALSO: Dispose of your face masks safely, top doctor urges Canadians

Another option being marketed are masks that have a clear plastic cover over the mouth so people can lip read.

McGarva has mixed opinions about those but thinks it’s a step in the right direction.

“Lipreading is only a small aspect of what I do to understand what I hear, most is reading the rest of the face,” she says. “… Things like how big the mask window is, glare, how crumpled it is and how much fabric blocks the face affects my perspective – the less fabric, the bigger the window, the better.”

McGarva hopes businesses especially take her message to heart because “you really only get one chance.” She says one of the main reasons she goes to a limited number of places because she feels like the staff at said places have the”patients to communicate with her.”

“It’s important for businesses to not over think things and for staff to relax and not show frustration,” she says, adding that her colleague at the Association put together a letter to business owners with a number of suggestions on how to be more accessible.


 

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.  
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Citing stability, B.C. Premier calls snap election for Oct. 24

John Horgan meets with Lieutenant Governor to request vote

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 20 to 26

Rabbit Day, Hobbit Day and One-Hit Wonder Day are all coming up this week

Single-engine aircraft crashes near Telkwa

Two occupants of the plane sustained minor injuries and were transported to hospital

Cullen announces bid for provincial NDP nomination for Stikine riding

Current MLA Donaldson not seeking re-election

Anne Marie Sam seeks NDP nomination for Nechako Lakes riding

She also ran in 2017 but was defeated by BC Liberal John Rustad

COVID-19: 4 more deaths, 366 new cases in B.C. since Friday

A total of 8,208 people in B.C. have tested positive for COVID-19 since January

RCMP issue two $2,300 COVID fines at same Metro Vancouver vacation rental within 24 hours

Cpl. Mike Kalanj said it was ‘quite frankly appalling’ to see parties breaking COVID-19 rules

Here’s how voting amid a pandemic will happen in B.C.

Elections BC has worked with the provincial health office to determine safety protocols for voting

B.C. privacy commissioner will hear First Nations complaints about COVID

The hearing will rely on written submissions from the Indigenous governments as well as the Ministry of Health

Majority of Canadians support wearing masks during COVID-19, oppose protests: poll

Nearly 90 per cent felt wearing a mask was a civic duty because it protects others from COVID-19

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Paper towel in short supply as people stay home, clean more, industry leader says

While toilet paper consumption has returned to normal levels, paper towel sales continue to outpace pre-COVID levels

Group wants Parliament, courts to hold social media to same standard as publishers

Daniel Bernhard made the comments shortly after Friends of Canadian Broadcasting released a research paper

B.C.’s Chase Claypool catches first NFL touchdown pass

Abbotsford grad establishes new record for longest scrimmage TD by a Canadian

Most Read