Our public health leaders are increasingly recommending the use of masks in public places in order to control the transmission of infection. Because we are in close contact during ear examinations, both the staff and clients at Resonance Hearing Clinic now wear masks while in the office. While masks provide a barrier to infection transmission, they present some challenges to our ears and our hearing.
Reduced Speech Understanding
Facial cues are an important component to communication. Although we may not be able to fully “lip read”, we all use facial cues to aid our understanding, especially in difficult listening environments. When someone’s hearing is diminished, they become especially reliant on these facial cues. Masks not only hide facial cues but they also muffle one’s speech to a certain extent. In combination with social distancing, masks reduce speech understanding, especially for those with hearing impairment.
Increased Risk of Losing Hearing Aids
The most common type of hearing aid is comprised of a piece behind the ear with a small wire running from the instrument down to the ear canal. Masks can get caught up in these wires (not to mention the temples of eyeglasses) and there is a significant risk of losing one’s hearing aid while taking off the mask.
Besides giving advice of being diligent about checking one’s hearing aids when taking off one’s mask, we wanted to help prevent the loss of hearing aids. We caught wind of Alex Marsh, a local 14 year old Quamichan Secondary School student who was using his 3 D printer to make valves for ventilator masks. We felt a kinship to Alex as using technology to help find solutions to health problems is a fundamental mission here at Resonance. We hired Alex to produce “Ear Savers” for Resonance’s clients. An Ear Saver is a band worn at the back of the head which catches the elastic straps of the mask so that the straps ride under, not over the ears. This reduces interference with the hearing instruments and the chance of them coming off while removing the mask. Ear Savers also reduce pressure and soreness caused when the elastic strap pulls behind the ears. Resonance is providing Ear Savers at no charge to our clients and Alex is donating his profits to the Cowichan District Hospital Foundation. He’s also invested in upgrading his 3D printer.