Face masks are protecting us and limiting the spread of COVID-19, but they have caused major difficulties for those who are hard of hearing.
Businesses and members of the public are being asked to consider the needs of hearing impaired people in a campaign launched today by Irish hearing healthcare specialists, Hidden Hearing.
The campaign, #PleaseSpeakUp, will provide free lapel badges for people who are hard of hearing to wear, so that those they meet in public, and particularly in stores, will understand their difficulty. The use of face masks and screens in retail outlets and in public places, like GPs’ surgeries, makes life difficult, on account of the muffled sound effect, says Dolores Madden, audiologist & Marketing Director at Hidden Hearing.
She commented, "More vulnerable and elderly people are encouraged to wear face masks in public, as are those dealing with the public in their line of work. But unfortunately this makes it difficult to hear, and that can add to the feeling of isolation in the hearing impaired, especially when they fail to understand what is being said."
It is hoped that, as people recognise the #PleaseSpeakUp badge, they will speak clearly, raise their voice a little and take the time to ensure that the individual understands.
Free lapel badges are available by contacting Hidden Hearing by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to have badges posted free of charge.
They will also be offered to clients attending clinic appointments. Applicants do not need to be an existing Hidden Hearing customer though, and GPs can also request stock of badges for patients they feel would benefit. Information is available on www.hiddenhearing.ie.
Face masks effectively cover the mouth, and many people without hearing aids actually relied on lip-reading to compensate for hearing loss, without realising it, audiologists now believe. “Since lockdown, the Hidden Hearing helpline has dealt with many people newly concerned about their hearing. When face masks affect the sound quality and you cannot see lip movements either, hearing loss is going to become much more apparent, and it may be time to consider a hearing device”, Dolores Madden shared.
Hidden Hearing clinics countrywide currently provide a service for urgent appointments and will reopen fully on June 8th next, in line with Government guidelines. The company currently has a call-centre staffed by audiologists for telephone advice, as well as extensive online supports and videos to guide people in hearing aid care and maintenance.
In March, Hidden Hearing introduced a scheme whereby free hearing aid batteries are posted out to anyone needing them. Over 17,000 sets of batteries have been issued to date, completely free of charge, including to hearing aid users that were not clients of the hearing healthcare provider.
Those who have noticed a decline in their hearing ability are advised to consider a hearing test, which can initially be taken online. If needed, an appointment would then entail a full evaluation and diagnosis using the most advanced testing methods available. Early diagnosis and intervention may prevent further deterioration, the experts say. Family and friends who realise someone is struggling to hear are also encouraged to suggest an appointment.
Those enquiring about an urgent appointment now, or who wish to book a consultation from June 8th, can call 1800 667711 for help.