The other day someone asked me how I felt about the mask wearing restrictions being relaxed in New Jersey, even though masks were still required in health care facilities like ours. My immediate response was, “It couldn’t have come fast enough!”
During this Covid epidemic, a lot of normal hearing people have been experiencing what it’s like to be hearing impaired as I am. This new world of social distancing has required us to wear masks which muffle our speech. Add in background noise, six foot distancing, muffled speech, and barrier-like protective shields, is it any wonder that it is difficult to hear!
What I have particularly missed during these Covid times is the ability to recognize lip movement and facial expressions – things vital to the hearing impaired. Many times when in a busy room, such as our P.T. clinic, there are several people talking simultaneously. It is challenging to say the least, to determine if someone, whose lip movement cannot be seen, is actually directing their conversation to me. Worse yet, is when I give an incorrect response to someone who you thought was talking to you, but wasn’t!
Layered on top of all the aforementioned challenges, is our new world of constant video chats, Zoom meetings, and on-line courses. Very often, the video and audio are not of the same quality as in person chatting, further adding to the hearing challenge.
Hopefully by now most of you have some appreciation for what it’s like to have hearing impairment. Please use this information as a lesson to show compassion to those who struggle to connect. The use of hearing aids for myself, although not perfect, have been a total blessing. To steal a quote from my audiologist (Jasmin Battat), who quotes Helen Keller, “Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people”.