Masks are used as a means of protection by health professionals and others working in the community in order to protect themselves, as well as preventing the spread from the wearer to other people in the community. However, when someone is wearing a mask members of the community are unable to lip read.
Quite often someone can be too embarrassed to ask people to repeat themselves and when they do, they receive mixed responses from care and understanding to impatience and rudeness. This results in feelings of fear and anxiety that they haven’t understood, and further feelings of isolation.
One solution is for the deaf person to have a picture saved to their mobile phone saying that they are deaf/hard of hearing/hearing impaired. They would then show this image to whoever they need to speak to, so that an alternative mode of communication may be used. This could be a transcription app on a mobile phone or using a note pad.
The recent increased use of face masks as Personal Protective Equipment has made it particularly difficult for many people to understand conversations, as they use lip reading as an aid to communication. Many of us actually lip read without realising it.
It is estimated that 1 in 6 people in Guernsey are living with a hearing impairment. That is over 10,000 islanders.
It is important for us all to realise how the use of these masks can limit someone’s ability to understand a conversation.
Tops tips if you are struggling to communicate with someone with a hearing impairment.
- If you aren’t wearing a mask: Make sure you face the person you are talking to and speak slowly and clearly.
- If you are wearing a mask: Go back to basics and use a pen and paper and write it down. If you need to give someone directions or instructions make sure these are written down to avoid any misunderstanding.
- In all situations, consider the background noise. If background music is played, think about switching it off or lowering the volume. If the background noise is high, consider moving somewhere quieter.
- Videos and films can be useful as an alternative way to communicate but they should always include subtitles.
Three images have been created and can be downloaded below.