Masks, social distancing creating communication challenges for hard of hearing community | KOB 4

Masks, social distancing creating communication challenges for hard of hearing community

Kai Porter
Updated: July 31, 2020 06:30 PM
Created: July 31, 2020 03:28 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- Masks that protect against COVID-19 are having unintended consequences for the deaf and hard of hearing community.

"Basically, the mask takes away half of what we use to communicate," said Nathan Gomme, executive director of the New Mexico Commission for Deaf and Hard of Hearing. "And it's important that we wear masks, but it makes it harder on a day-to-day basis.”


Gomme said masks muffle a person's voice and hides a person's mouth, which can complicate communication. 

"So what that means is now you can't read my lips. You can't see the expressions. In a situation such COVID-19, or when you have this pandemic, you have people who are wearing masks that you can't see anything and sometimes they're trying to usher you into a store or tell you something and basically you're like – with a hearing loss - you're looking at them like I got nothing,” Gomme said.

He says it's not just masks that create problems for the hard of hearing community. The 6-feet social distancing rule can also cause problems.

"So now you have a 6-feet gap," Gomme said. "And you have hearing aids that work in close proximity. So when you have 6-feet of a distance, your hearing aids aren't as effective.”

Gomme said there are things that can help including clear masks and face shields. There are also smartphone apps that can make communicating easier.

"So when I use my app, I show them it and encourage them to use their apps," Gomme said. "Sometimes they have tablets. Sometimes they write on paper. And I encourage people to do that.”

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