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How to Communicate Effectively While Wearing a Face Mask

As we all adjust to life with face masks, there are hurdles that we continue to encounter. So much of communication comes from reading facial expressions and even reading lips. This is even more true for those that are deaf or hard of hearing (click here for more information). So how can we balance safety precautions and disease prevention with the need to communicate?

Communicating with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) contacted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to emphasize the need for clear face masks and the use of other communication aids to protect people with hearing loss and communication disorders. ASHA considered this a pressing public health issue because solid face coverings reduce the effectiveness of spoken communication as they dampen and filter sound, degrade speech intelligibility, and remove visual cues. Following ASHA’s input, the CDC updated their guidelines with a list of adaptations that may need to be made to their standard recommendations. Specifically, for communicating with deaf and hard of hearing individuals, the CDC recommends using clear face masks or face shields.

General Communication

Besides the deaf and hard of hearing, communication is challenging for everyone as we follow social distancing and mask wearing protocols. Research suggests that we have fewer cognitive resources to process information deeply and as a result, communication suffers. It may require a little bit more effort on all our parts, but the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has a few suggestions:

  • Be aware if someone you’re communicating with is having trouble hearing you. Ask and find a way to adapt.
  • Be patient if an interaction becomes frustrating due to muffled sounds.
  • Be mindful of the environment you’re communicating in and how that might impact you and others.
  • Be loud and clear by projecting your voice and enunciating.
  • Turn down the background volume to limit competing sounds.
  • Communicate another way, such as texting or pen and paper, if speaking isn’t working.
  • Confirm that your statement is clear by simply asking if your message has been understood.
  • Bring a friend if you need help ensuring that you’re hearing and understanding important information.

These tips can be useful to you, but also to your students. Adults and children are both adapting to these new methods of communication so it’s important we do what we can to help each other.

To shop MacGill’s selection of in-stock COVID-19 supplies, click here.

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