Our managing director Mark Scutchings says many of us rely on lip reading, even if we don’t realise it. And this can cause problems now we’re all wearing face coverings so often.
I’m sure we all find the wearing of face masks a bit of a chore when we are going about our day-to-day business. But if you have a hearing loss, you have a couple of extra problems to deal with.
Firstly, if you wear a hearing aid behind your ear, the hearing aid is competing for space with your face mask. A fair few hearing aids have been lost because of this. However, by far the biggest problem is the fact that you cannot lip-read someone wearing a face mask.
Now, you are probably thinking, hold on a minute, I’m not that deaf and I never learned to lip read. But if you have even a mild hearing loss, you probably rely on lip-reading more than you think. To start with, lip reading is probably a rather inaccurate way of describing how we watch the facial expression as well as words being formed on the lips.
Even if we have good hearing, we probably do this a bit. A facial expression will often tell us if someone is being ironic or deadly serious. When we start to lose our hearing, we start to watch faces more intently for clues to the words we are missing. This often happens unconsciously and a lot of people with mild hearing losses get by with a combination of informal lip reading and guesswork before they finally admit that they have a hearing loss and need to wear a hearing aid. I may fall into that category myself.
Hearing a little less well
After more than 40 years of listening to hearing aids as part of my work, my high-frequency hearing has started to suffer a bit. And I have a bit of intermittent tinnitus in my left ear. However, until the widespread wearing of face masks, my hearing was never an issue for day-to-day living. That has started to change and now that I cannot watch people’s faces, I have to concentrate quite hard in some circumstances and I know that my underlying level of hearing has not changed.
So, maybe you are experiencing this too. Maybe you feel that it is getting harder to hear, but your audiologist is telling you that your hearing is the same. If this is you, blame other people’s face masks, not your hearing. Perhaps a secondary benefit of the relaxation of Covid restrictions will be a reduction in the use of face masks, so we can all hear a bit more easily.
Of course, if the face mask rules carry on for a while, we may have to get used to hearing a little less well than we did. Maybe I need to fit myself with a hearing aid. I suppose it might help with my tinnitus a bit too!