Almost a fifth of people (19%) with hearing loss have experienced an increase in frustration, embarrassment and isolation during lockdown, and facemasks are making it even harder to communicate.
Audiologists at Specsavers, who commissioned the research, believe that the problem could be more widespread and are offering support and advice to those in need. The survey also reveals that almost 60% of people who know someone with hearing loss have noticed greater levels of isolation in their friends and family than ever before.
As a result, Specsavers is appealing to people to be more understanding of the difficulties that those with hearing loss face and to try to make communication easier.
Gordon Harrison, Specsavers chief audiologist, says: ‘It is not uncommon for people with hearing loss to find it difficult to communicate, especially in a loud and busy atmosphere. But as the wearing of facemasks becomes the new normal, making lip-reading impossible and distorting sound, it can be even more challenging.
‘A facemask acts as a barrier, particularly to the higher speech frequencies where the key information in words is contained, and to plosive sounds that are produced on the lips, such as ‘f’, ‘ch’ and ‘p’. These sounds don’t carry the same energy as those produced in the back of the mouth and throat, such as ‘ee’ and ‘oo’, and can impact on the ability to hear.
‘To combat this, we’re issuing advice to make it easier to communicate when wearing facemasks. Our audiologists will do their utmost to ensure that no-one is struggling, and they can offer solutions and advice tailored to each person’s individual needs.’
Hearing loss is very common - 65% of Brits know someone with a hearing impairment – and it affects people of all ages. Your hearing changes over time and for different reasons, which is why people experience different types of loss at different stages in life.
Gordon says: ‘Most of us have been in situations where we’ve not been able to hear clearly. Despite it being very common, our research shows that 40% of us are worried about other people being judgmental. That really shouldn’t be the case and why it is so important that we do all we can to remove the stigma – especially as it can happen to anyone at any age.
‘On average it takes someone 10 years to get their hearing checked but it is so important that you have it looked at as soon as you notice any changes, such as conversation becoming more muffled, or if you notice the volume on the TV is starting to creep up. While hearing loss cannot be reversed there are lots of things which can be done to help.’
Help people hear clearly
- Speak clearly in a slightly raised voice but do not shout as this distorts sound
- Reduce background noise where possible
- Attract the person’s attention so that they know you are speaking as this will allow both ears to better pinpoint and focus on the sound
- If you wear a hearing aid, ask your audiologist to help you adjust it to compensate when someone is wearing a mask, or use a remote microphone to deliver the best sound to the aid
- If all else fails, writing information down can help clarify
Specsavers is open for audiology appointments throughout the UK. Customers will need to request an appointment online (www.specsavers.co.uk/hearing/request-form) or call their local store first for advice and to be assessed on the level of care that they might need. In the first instance, care and support will be provided remotely, if possible, using its RemoteCare video and telephone consultation service.
For more information or to request an appointment, visit www.specsavers.co.uk.