Hearing loss and staying connected during COVID-19

May 14, 2021
Healthy hearing Hearing loss COVID-19
5 min read

WRITTEN BY

Sarah Wakefield, AuD

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Creating meaningful connections with others is more important now than ever. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous studies highlighted the isolating effects of hearing loss, impacting quality of life and potentially brain function. In the last year, we have found ourselves connecting with others in ways we never have before. Social distancing has decreased the ability for face-to-face conversations with friends and family, creating a disadvantage for individuals with hearing loss. Our primary mode of communication has changed to verbal/virtual contact via the telephone or video calls. When communicating in this way, the visual inputs that many hearing impaired individuals rely on to improve understanding is no longer available to them or diminished. Additionally, masks and distance are necessary barriers that increase communication difficulties for the hearing impaired.

Whether on a traditional telephone call, video call, or in person with a mask, below are some tips to help improve communication.

For the hearing impaired

  • Turn off competing noise such as the TV, radio, dishwasher, etc.
  • Reduce the distance between yourself and the device (phone/tablet/computer)
  • Unfortunately, distance cannot be reduced with in-person communication, so optimizing other conditions will be important to improving communication
  • Ensure your hearing aid is working properly to provide the best sound quality
  • Schedule conversations during a time of day when you are well rested and focused
  • Identify topics of conversation that might take place with the communication partner
  • If possible, pair your hearing aid with the smart phone/device
  • If you do not have hearing aids or your hearing aids are not Bluetooth compatible, use a headset with audio and microphone
  • Have patience, as technological difficulties will often result in interrupted speech or distortion of speech

For the communication partner

  • Position yourself to include your head and upper body in the video frame
  • Ensure good lighting
  • Avoid distracting backgrounds
  • Turn off competing noise such as the TV, radio, dishwasher, etc.
  • Use a headset with audio and microphone capabilities
  • Ensure the person is listening before speaking
  • Provide the topic of conversation
  • Have only one person speak at a time
  • Speak slowly
  •  Do not shout, over emphasize, or exaggerate your words
  • If needed, spell it out

For more information on hearing health, visit mountnittany.org/audiology.

Sarah Wakefield, AuD, is a provider with Mount Nittany Physician Group Audiology. She earned her bachelor’s degree in communication disorders from The Pennsylvania State University and her doctorate in audiology from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She is a member of the American Academy of Audiology and the American Auditory Society.

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“Hearing loss impacts each person differently,” shares Dr. Wakefield. “It’s important to listen to each patient and fully understand their situation in order to best treat and manage their hearing healthcare needs.”

Dr. Wakefield earned her bachelor’s degree in communication disorders from The Pennsylvania State University and her doctorate in audiology from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She is a member of the American Academy of Audiology and the American Auditory Society.
“To know that I’ve been able to make a positive difference in a patient’s quality of life is what this work is all about,” Dr. Wakefield says. “It’s what makes it all worth it.”

Outside of the office, Dr. Wakefield enjoys gardening and practicing yoga. She especially appreciates time spent with family, including her husband and their daughter

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