Face Masks Pose a Challenge for the Hard of Hearing

21st July 2020 | by Alison | posted in News

Face masks are a huge challenge for the hard of hearing and people with hearing loss. As face coverings become compulsory in shops and on public transport in Scotland and England, we offer some tips on how to cope with the difficulties they present.

Those who suffer from hearing loss rely on visual clues to help them ‘hear’ or decode what a person is saying. Many of those visual cues come from facial expressions and from mouth and lip shape - the hard of hearing person is either completely or partially lip-reading. When a person is covering their face and/or mouth then it can be impossible for the hard of hearing to understand what is being said. Those with hearing loss could feel very isolated and be unable to communicate.

Our Recommendations for Face Mask Friendly Communication

  • Be Open

Be open and direct about your hearing loss. When you are in a situation where the person you are required to interact with has a mask on (for example a shop assistant or bus driver) then communicate immediately and clearly that you are hard of hearing. This can be done by telling them, or you could have some information written on a card or paper that you can show.

  • Ask

Ask the person to speak loudly and clearly for you. If necessary then you may need to ask them to remove their mask. Remember that they may not wish to do this. It might help them to feel more confident removing their mask if you are wearing one yourself.

  • Use written communication

You may find that the best way to communicate with someone is via pen and paper so it is worth carrying a notepad just in case this is what you need to do to avoid frustration. Typing and reading from a device such as a mobile phone can also be useful.

  • Buy transparent face masks for family

If you are out and about with family or friends then it is useful for them to have a face mask with a transparent section over their mouth so that you can see / hear what they are saying. There are a number of designs available online - search for transparent masks, friendly face masks, or vinyl masks.  Be aware that some people have reported the transparent areas can 'fog up' with droplets - they may not be a completely perfect solution but they may help.

What are the regulations?

In England, from 15 July, people have been required to wear face coverings on public transport. From 24 July, face coverings were mandatory in all shops and supermarkets. Those under the age of 11 and people with disabilities or breathing problems are exempt, as well as anyone travelling with someone who lip-reads.

In Scotland, from 10 July, it has been compulsory to wear a face covering in shops and on public transport – except for people with certain medical conditions and children under five.

In Wales, face coverings have been required on public transport from 27 July, including in taxis. The Welsh Government is also advising people to wear masks in crowded places where social distancing is not possible, but this is not compulsory.

The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have also imposed the same rules for public transport.


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