Covid-19 has changed all our lives in so many ways, but for people with hearing impairment, the ‘new normal’ has brought unique challenges.

Researchers at Hearing Sciences – Scottish Section, based in Glasgow and part of the University of Nottingham, ran a study which found that face masks, social distancing, and video calling can be difficult for people with hearing loss, and many of those who suffer from tinnitus said that it has been worse during the lockdown.

Four Patient and Public Involvement Representatives at Hearing Sciences – Scottish Section reflected on what it is like to live through a pandemic with hearing loss:

‘Lockdown has been a challenge in so many ways.’

‘During these times, it is difficult for most people, but for those with hearing difficulties it has added problems which most people do not realise.’

‘Keeping in touch with friends was absolutely essential during this period of restrictions.’

‘As a family, we use Zoom and Facetime a lot for wee get togethers but I find it very tiring and stressful if there are too many participants and when trying to listen in over lots of chatter and background noise. I have now had several job interviews over Zoom as well. A strange set up! Again, quite stressful trying to hear clearly.’

‘Once lockdown restrictions had eased, I cautiously ventured out again.’

‘Due to social distancing I am finding it difficult to converse with people who are standing further away from me than normal. If they are wearing a mask this adds to the problem and for the most part I cannot hear what they are saying. Their voice is just a mumble of words that I do not hear. Masks also take away the opportunity to lip read. This has had an impact on my life and has taken away a lot of my confidence when I meet people outside my home.’

‘Then face masks became mandatory. Another trial if you wore hearing aids.’

‘I’ve ended up with packets of sugar, “this week’s special coffee” and extra milk at Costa because I’ve given up asking the barista to repeat what they just said, and so I just nod. When I finally get my tray and make may way to the table to meet my friend, it’s with huge relief that I put down my tray and remove my face mask. What was that, pinging across the table and hitting her coffee mug? Oh, it was my hearing aid, once again dislodged by the mask.’

‘Light at the end of the tunnel.’

‘In general, people now seem delighted to say that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that things will be returning to normal in the not too distant future. Whilst that is indeed laudable, for those with acute loss the world around about them will not alter significantly with regard to their hearing. We need to understand this and take care of one another.’ 

 

Written by Fiona Mowat, Rita Rivero, Morag Sievwright, and Derek Macfadyen, Patient and Public Involvement representatives at Hearing Sciences – Scottish Section, and Louise Burke, Research Assistant and Patient and Public Involvement Facilitator at Hearing Sciences – Scottish Section.

If you would like to read more about the study, you can read the discussion.