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Mask wearing poses communication challenges for deaf community

Published: Aug. 6, 2020 at 9:09 PM CDT
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - Living in this world in the era of coronavirus is difficult for everyone. For 23-year-old Noah Hancock, the challenge is even greater because he was born hard of hearing. He relies on reading lips to communication, which is difficult with everyone wearing masks.

Noah spoke with 13 news about navigating the masked world of COVID-19.

“I was born hard of hearing, I had some hearing loss at birth. Growing up I was wearing hearing aids. When I was 15 years old I had the surgery for the cochineal implant, it helped me hear much better than hearing aids. So the surgery was successful,” said Noah.

Noah says his ability to hear is around 80% but he relies on American Sign Language and lip reading to communicate with those around him.

“I am very dependent on being able to read someones lips. With the mask on it really affects that. When someone is wearing a mask and talking I would miss things, I would ask them to repeat what they said. Maybe two or three times and so that really kind of affects me more,” said Noah.

Noah says despite communication barriers due to mask wearing, he’s just like you and I and he’s been navigating the dips and turns of this roller coaster of a pandemic.

Here’s some tips from hearinglikeme.com:

For the public:

Use visual cues to signal someone and get their attention, especially if it appears that they did not hear you

Many deaf and hard of hearing individuals rely on visual cues to communicate as well. A simple wave can help let the person know that you are trying to speak to them.

Try to speak loud enough so the person can hear you

If you have a hard time hearing yourself, a person with hearing loss most likely will have a hard time as well. You don’t have to scream but you may have to speak just a little louder than usual.

Gesture if possible

While this depends on the context and environment, you don’t have to know fluent sign language or learn an entirely new language to be able to communicate with or accommodate a deaf or hard of hearing individual. Simple gestures are often self-explanatory and can be helpful while communicating.

Write it out if you can

If you’re in an environment where you can write out what you are saying whether it’s on paper or a phone, this may be helpful and much less frustrating for both you and the deaf or hard of hearing person and avoid misunderstanding.

Ask the individual directly what would help them

If you know a deaf or hard of hearing individual, ask them if they have a preferred mode of communication or if there’s something that you can do to accommodate them and communicate more effectively. All deaf and hard of hearing individuals are unique and prefer different modes of communication.

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