Covid-19 and it’s Impact on Communication

No one foresaw the Covid-19 outbreak happening. Covid-19 has had some incidental effects like having to work from home, relying more on delivery services, and issues communicating. With many cities and businesses implanting a mask rule, more and more people are figuring out how poor their hearing and understanding are. Masks are burdening communication by:

• Removing many visual cues that the speaker gives. Visual cues are important because in normal conversation we rely on them more than we realize. For example, visual cues of the lower face can indicate to the listener that it is their turn to speak.
• The sound from the source that reaches the listener is decreased by three to twelve decibels, making it harder to understand higher-pitched voices. This three to twelve-decibel range sounds insignificant however, it can make all the difference when trying to distinguish speech sounds from each other.
• Hiding visual cues, like smiling. The facial visual cues can help the speaker or listener to understand the other party’s mood and feelings toward the conversation.

Seven months into the pandemic and masks have become a norm. Instead of being discouraged, here are some tips for you to better communicate with masks:

• Wear a clear mask: Purchasing a mask that is completely clear or has visible lips can help everyone, not just those who are hearing impaired. Many people rely on lip-reading more than they think; having a clear mask can help the listener distinguish between sounds that are similar to/b/ and /p/.
• Use images and gestures to support understanding and or rephrase and speak more slowly when wearing a mask. It is imperative to speak up when using a mask because it does decrease the volume of voice. It helps to speak at a normal rate. Using gestures or visuals, in addition to speaking at a clear volume, will give the listener the best chance of understanding.
• Engage with eye contact, use hand gestures, and maintain positive body language when wearing a mask: Many emotions are lost behind the mask. The lower part of the face can tell the listener if the speaker is sarcastic, angry, etc. For the listener, their face shows the speaker if they are engaged or understanding the topic. For smooth conversation, both parties must maintain good communication skills such as eye contact and nodding.

The Covid-19 pandemic has also started the practice of social distancing. Social distancing, along with the mask, has caused many communication difficulties for those with hearing loss. Social distancing and masks help create space between those with COivd-19 and those who do not, but it is causing more distance between the source and listener. Following the rules that are mandated and tips, we talked about can help you communicate!