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Face masks ‘can be a real problem’ for people with hearing loss

PUBLISHED: 15:29 26 July 2020 | UPDATED: 15:29 26 July 2020

Matthew Coward, operations manager at The Hearing Care Centre, with one of the free badges. Picture: THE HEARING CARE CENTRE

Matthew Coward, operations manager at The Hearing Care Centre, with one of the free badges. Picture: THE HEARING CARE CENTRE

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New pin badges aim to warn people when they are communicating with someone who has hearing loss – amid fears greater use of face masks could cause a “real problem” for people with hearing loss.

Matthew Coward, operations manager at The Hearing Care Centre, with one of the free badges. Picture: THE HEARING CARE CENTREMatthew Coward, operations manager at The Hearing Care Centre, with one of the free badges. Picture: THE HEARING CARE CENTRE

New rules mean that wearing face masks is now mandatory in shops and a range of other public areas.

Yet while the move is necessary to help limit the spread of coronavirus, Karen Finch – a senior audiologist and founder of The Hearing Care Centre – said: “It has been shown that wearing a mask does decrease the ability for speech to be understood.”

So the company, which has 27 centres across Suffolk and Norfolk, has specially produced a series of pin badges which read: “I have a hearing loss. Please speak clearly.”

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Ms Finch said face masks can cause communication difficulties for anybody, adding: “So for those with a hearing loss, it can be a real problem.

“The mask acts as a filter that dampens the higher frequencies of speech, and can also interrupt the bookends of speech, the beginnings and ends of words.

“People with hearing loss often become quite adept at compensating for it by looking closely at people when they speak, but with the introduction of masks it means that these visual cues have also gone.

“We hope that our badges will help with communication issues for those that wear them by alerting shop assistants, or anyone else they need to communicate with, that they have an issue and that clear speech from the other person will greatly help.”

A limited number of pin badges are available free of charge to residents in Suffolk or Norfolk.

They can be claimed online by visiting the charity’s website.


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