Hearing Through Face Masks – Part 1

Q.  I had trouble hearing and understanding people before all of this social distancing and face mask wearing.  It is now much worse since the people where I work on Loop 360 wear masks in the office.  What can I do to better understand what people are saying to me and around me?

A.  Before face masks, you could ‘see’ what a person said to you as long as you had good eye contact.  When you talk to a person wearing a face mask, you can no longer get clues from watching their mouth.  Plus, a mask muffles a person’s voice, which adds to the difficulty as you try to understand what they say to you.

  Keep good eye contact, even without seeing a person’s mouth.  Our ears are made to collect information better from in front of us.  Do not turn away or walk away when trying to talk with someone. 

  Ask the person to speak a little slower.  This allows them to breathe more easily with a face mask on and to pronounce words more distinctly.  Try to avoid asking someone to talk louder because this causes them to speak more quickly and loose their breath more easily – both of which result in them speaking less clearly.

  In work meetings, or social gatherings, encourage one person to talk at a time.  When that ‘rule’ gets broken, remind them it is harder to understand multiple muffled voices when more than one person is talking at a time.

  Call us at the Better Hearing Center of Austin.  We are making appointments for new patients on a selective basis.  Get your ears checked and your hearing tested.  Then listen to some hearing aids.  We provide coaching and adjustments during a 4-week hearing aid trial for patients to fully test hearing aids before they make a final purchase. 

Saleem Assaf (BA – Rice, MBA – UT) is a native Dallas, Texan and a recipient of KVUE’s 2020 award for 5 Who Care and the Texas Hearing Aid Association’s 2018 Dispenser of the Year award.  Outside his practice, Saleem volunteers for hearing healthcare in Austin and abroad.  Since 2008, he has provided $178,000 in hearing aids to students at the Texas School for the Deaf.