Hearing Care is Health Care in a COVID World

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  • Adjusting Your Mask to Accommodate Your Hearing Device
  • Adjusting Your Hearing Device to Accommodate Your Mask
  • Hearing Loss and Health in the Time of COVID
  • A Guide to Successful Video Calls

A Guide to Successful Video Calls

With the increased usage of video calls during the pandemic, from Zoom to Google Meet to Facetime, comes a new set of issues to which people with hearing loss must adapt. From bad lighting to thumbnail sized friends and relatives, a lack of captioning to a cacophony of voices all speaking at once, the group video call format presents many new challenges that require new solutions. Here are a few tips for making your video call experience a success..

1. Be honest – let people know beforehand, or during the call, that you have hearing loss. This will help your friends, family, and colleagues remember to be mindful of the challenges you are facing and make adjustments to help you.

Lighting – sometimes people don’t realize they are in dim light, or are sitting with a light behind them, obscuring a view of their face. Be sure to remind people to position themselves in the light, so that any visual cues that supplement auditory information can be read easily.

Settings – make sure you have the optimal settings on your video call device. Some programs have different views, either showing a gallery of all the participants or cycling between larger frames of whoever is speaking. If the call has a lot of people, the “gallery” view may make their thumbnails harder to see, obscuring visual cues, while the “speaker” view may help by increasing the size of the frame and also helping indicate who is presently speaking.

Mute – ask people to mute themselves when they are not speaking. This is beneficial to the entire group, as it cuts down on background noise being picked up by everyone’s microphones, as well as preventing everyone from speaking over each other at once. Using a system where the person
who wishes to speak raises their hand or a group moderator directs the next person to speak can also make this system work more fluidly

Use technology – connecting directly to your hearing device via Bluetooth can help eliminate distracting background noise or tinny computer speaker sound. If Automated Speech Recognition or some other captioning program is available on your platform (such as Google Meet and
some premium Zoom platforms), using it may make a big difference. Being able to visually read along with what people are saying will increase retention and help avoid confusion as the conversation progresses.

Blazer, D. G. (2020, November). Hearing Loss and Psychiatric Disorders : The Hearing Journal. Retrieved November 14, 2020,
from https://journals.lww.com/thehearingjournal/fulltext/2020/11000/hearing_loss_and_psychiatric_disorders.2.aspx
Gordon Glantz. (n.d.). COVID-19 and Audiological Dysfunctions: Scrutinizing Recent … : The Hearing Journal. Retrieved
November 13, 2020, from https://journals.lww.com/thehearingjournal/fulltext/2020/11000/covid_19_and_audiological_dysfunctions_.1.aspx
Georgiou, A. (2020, November 04). Hearing loss is a treatable cause of loneliness. Retrieved November 14, 2020, from https://www.starkey.com/blog/articles/2020/11/hearing-loss-and-loneliness?utm_source=Starkey+SoundNews
Hannan, G. (2020, November 03). How to Zoom Like a HoH (with Hearing Loss) – Gael Hannan. Retrieved November 14, 2020, from https://hearinghealthmatters.org/betterhearingconsumer/2020/how-to-zoom-like-a-hoh-with-hearing-loss/
NAL Mask Adjustments. (2020, September 23). Retrieved November 14, 2020, from https://www.nal.gov.au/nal-mask-adjust/

Adjusting Your Mask to Accommodate Your Hearing Device

It’s likely that mask-wearing is going to be part of our lives for the foreseeable future. While wearing masks can be a mild inconvenience for some, it becomes even more difficult for those who already wear hearing instruments in and/or behind their ears, as masks and hearing devices can easily become tangled when putting them on or taking them off. Here are some tips to avoid this situation:

1. Use both hands and take your time when removing your mask so you can ensure the straps do not become tangled in your hearing device.

2. Be mindful of the surrounding area when removing your mask to avoid losing your hearing device where it can become hidden by ground cover or other hazards.

3. Frequently check that your hearing device is still securely in place in or behind your ear after taking off or adjusting your mask to avoid having to backtrack very far if it has become dislodged and falls out.

4. Consider alternative mask fitting solutions. There are several products available that can secure the straps of your mask behind your head rather than behind your ears, improving comfort and security by avoiding contact with any hearing devices. You can also make these adapters by attaching buttons to a short piece of cloth or other material that the straps of the mask can loop over instead of your  ears, securing your mask straps to the back of your head.

5. Stay up to date on your loss and damage insurance in the event that you must replace a hearing device.

Hearing Loss and Health in the Time of COVID

The current COVID pandemic has presented new challenges and difficulties across the globe and exacerbated many problems that people already face. This is particularly true for those that have experienced or are beginning to experience hearing loss as they adjust to new changes in work and lifestyle routines. The use of masks to combat the spread of the virus has made effective communication more difficult for people with hearing loss as they lose crucial visual information and sound clarity. Social distancing has further strained relationships and increased feelings of isolation and loneliness. Lockdowns have made it more difficult to pursue our normal exercise and nutrition regimens, stay up to date on other routine medical care, and maintain our general physical well-being. Now – more than ever – it is important to be aware of these challenges and to take steps to overcome

Social isolation, already an issue for those experiencing hearing loss, can be an even greater obstacle in these times. Not being able to hear clearly what is being conveyed in social interaction can be a barrier that isolates under normal circumstances, requiring a concerted effort from both speaker and listener to achieve fulfilling engagement and successful communication. In the pandemic, this effort must be increased, as not only is it more difficult to communicate through masks and social distancing, but our limited social interactions make each of them all the more important to our well being. We as humans require social connection to maintain healthy sensory organs and stimulate our cognitive function. A lack of connection can result in feelings of isolation and depression, which can potentially contribute to cognitive decline. All of these factors are closely related to not only our mental health but our physical health as well. If we are deprived of the social relationships that give us a sense of safety and belonging, our sympathetic nervous system perceives this as a threat to our well being and starts to reflexively fire. This reflexive firing of the nervous system in response to a perceived threat produces hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, as the body instinctively enters a mild fight or flight mode. Over time, this can create a stressful cycle for our bodies that can affect our cardiovascular health, chemical balance, and immune system.

On the other hand, increased auditory stimulation from noisier home environments, more frequent video calls, headphone use, and a lack of exercise can also have detrimental effects on one’s health and hearing. Some studies have reported an increase in tinnitus cases or a worsening of existing cases due to these factors. This external stimuli, combined with internal stressors such as worrying about catching the virus, financial concerns, and a
lack of sleep can have a negative impact on one’s emotional distress and can exacerbate tinnitus symptoms.

For the sake of our mental and physical well being, it is critical to make a concerted effort to reach out to one another during these difficult times, to do everything we can to safely maintain our social bonds and support each other both mentally and physically, as it is crucial to both our health and our happiness. Here are a few tips to achieve these goals:

1. Stay up to date on your health – if you have existing medical conditions, do not neglect them. The first step towards being healthy is taking care of the things you already know about in order to feel good and be well.

2. If you are experiencing hearing loss, get help – hearing loss is a particularly challenging medical condition to have during these times, and addressing it right away can help you physically, mentally, and socially.

3. Make an effort to reach out – with social distancing, lockdowns, and masks, it is more difficult than ever to maintain our social relationships with friends, family, and colleagues. That is why it is so important to make a conscious effort to reinforce those social bonds and keep
them strong.

4. Find a routine – the pandemic has disrupted every facet of our lives and forced us into an uncomfortable new way of living, but that doesn’t mean we cannot create meaningful and productive routines within the “new normal.” This means finding a regiment that works for you when it comes to exercise, socialization, nutrition, and relaxation. Balance is important, and we must adjust and adapt to find one that works for us.

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