Tips to navigate hearing loss and communication during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our day-to-day lives and completely transformed the way we communicate with our families and friends. Because we are socially distanced, we are required to connect in ways we never imagined – via Zoom, telehealth and phone visits, and through masks while six feet apart.

Here are some tips for better communication during the COVID-19 pandemic.

video-conference-photo

Hearing

Whether you are communicating with an individual with a hearing loss, or you experience hearing loss yourself, here are some simple things you can do to ease communication:

  • Make sure you have your communication partner’s attention before beginning a conversation.
  • Reduce interfering background noise as much as possible.
  • When possible, make sure that both communication partners can use visual cues such as reading lips and facial expressions. When masks make this difficult, consider using a captioning application on a smartphone or tablet.
  • Check for understanding throughout the conversation.
  • If your communication partner doesn’t hear you, rephrase your statement – don’t repeat it.
  • If you use hearing aids or a cochlear implant, ask your audiologist about ways to stream audio from video or phone calls directly to your devices.
  • Ask your audiologist if you qualify for a free captioning phone.
Speech

Preserve your voice by following these tips for good vocal hygiene:

  • Drink plenty of fluids free of excess caffeine or alcohol to keep your vocal cords hydrated.
  • Take voice rest breaks if you have been talking for longer than one hour.
  • Consider switching to texting or emailing, even briefly, if you find you are experiencing vocal fatigue from voice overuse.
  • Use a microphone if you must speak at a loud volume.
  • Avoid vocally abusive behaviors such as yelling, excessive coughing and throat clearing, or inhalation of smoke/irritants.

Hoarseness lasting for longer than two weeks is abnormal and warrants a visit to a laryngologist or voice therapist.

See information about hearing and speech services at Baylor College of Medicine and learn more about National Better Hearing and Speech Month.

-By Sarah Blumhardt, certified speech-language pathologist, and Dr. Laura Schadt, audiologist in the Bobby R. Alford Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at Baylor

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