Communication issues created by masks - FOX34 Lubbock

Communication issues created by masks

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

You might have noticed wearing a facial covering, makes it harder for the people around you to hear what you are saying.  Audiologist Dr. Haley Owen says the reason may not be exactly why you think.

"Basically they act as a low-pass filter, allowing all the low frequency sounds to come through, while impairing the higher frequencies. And the higher frequencies are more important for speech understanding because they're going to help us discern the difference between usually the beginnings and the endings of words. Like the different between 'trees' and 'knees'," Dr. Owen explained.

Masks also make it more difficult to read lips and facial expressions. Something that has made this time even more difficult for people who are hard of hearing or suffering from hearing loss.

"I mean, they struggle. It's exhausting already, you know, to have hearing loss. To have to listen that intently all the time. But when you add the masks on top of it, it's basically compounding the problem that they were already experiencing," Dr. Owen said.

Some adjustments have been made at Livingston Hearing Aid Center where Dr. Owen is the director of audiology, to break down this barrier while keeping safe. 

"We started using these clear masks so that they can actually lip read through the mask." Dr. Owen said. 

For those of us that do not have those kinds of masks, there are a few ways to make communication easier.

Dr. Owen suggests speaking a bit louder than your normal speaking voice, to start.

"Slowing down your speech, getting their attention before you talk to them, you know trying to reduce as much background noise as possible," she added.

Her final recommendation does not involve using your voice, but rather using your compassion.

"Mostly it's being patient. Understanding that they have a hearing problem, it's not their fault," she said. 

Despite the issues they may create, Dr. Owen says both her patients and her staff continue to wear masks, to uphold their health and safety during this pandemic. 

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