Hard of hearing community finds challenge in communication while wearing masks

 deaf community and challenges with masks
deaf community and challenges with masks (KSFY)
Published: Jun. 19, 2020 at 4:33 PM CDT
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During the pandemic, there are new challenges that arise. For the deaf and hard of hearing community, one of those challenges is communication while others wear masks.

As the owner of an IT and software business, Tony Peterson helped his clients as the pandemic brought on a surge of new business. Peterson experienced communication challenges due to his hearing loss and interaction with those doing the right thing, wearing a mask.

"Those of us that have hearing disabilities or hearing loss rely on facial cues for pretty much everything we do to communicate still see the eyes. But I still rely heavily on lip-reading for communication," said Peterson.

Julie Luke is also hard of hearing and experiences more anxiety at times when talking to someone wearing a mask.

Misunderstandings can happen, and it can be a very stressful thing," said Luke.

She chooses to be persistent.

"The clerk asked me a question I said, 'I can't hear you,' and she asked me again. And typically after a couple of times, they'll make some adjustments," said Luke.

An alternative could be a different type of mask, like the one Kim Wadsworth has.

"Like this that has an opening through your mouth, or you put a face shield on, and that way you have access to the person's mouth," said Wadsworth.

Keeping your mask on is important, and there are other ways to communicate with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing.

"Paper and pencil, people with their cell phones. Now you can type in your messages and your notes and you show it to a person," said Wadsworth.

If you're on a video meeting with a person hard of hearing, keep your camera on so that your expressions and lips can be read.

"I don't want people to perceive the problem on my hand and so I try to put a lot of effort into making sure that the communication stays up," said Peterson.

Dakota News Now has also heard from those who are learning a new language or taking ESL classes who say masks are a barrier to learning those new languages. Those groups are working on finding a balance between staying protected during the pandemic and continuing their communication and learning experience.

And for those in the deaf community, Luke wants to encourage you to not give up.

"So I think it's really important that we make the effort to communicate, rather than isolate or ignore," said Luke.

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