Two people wear face masks and premium hearing aids during the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 and Hearing Loss: What To Know

Published: July 27, 2020

Updated: February 28, 2022

Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic has become a daily challenge for everyone. Many things have been impacted by COVID-19, and those living with hearing loss have had to adjust their lifestyles to keep themselves and those around them safe.

The pandemic has created many questions for those living with hearing loss. Let’s take a look at the relationship between COVID-19 and hearing loss, and what solutions are available for some common problems.

Can COVID-19 cause hearing loss?

Anyone who first noticed hearing loss during the pandemic may be wondering if their hearing loss is linked to COVID-19. Being that hearing loss is a broad topic, it’s important to review the research in a couple of ways.

COVID-19 and Sudden Hearing Loss

Research suggests that sudden hearing loss in conjunction with COVID-19 is very rare. If you are experiencing sudden hearing loss, it’s important to get treatment as soon as possible in order to determine the cause.

COVID-19 and Hearing Loss Over Time

More research is needed to determine the exact relationship between COVID-19 and hearing loss, tinnitus, and other hearing-related issues. However, research does suggest that there may be a link between COVID-19 and hearing-related conditions over time—though these instances were still rare.

It should be noted that it’s important to follow along with the latest research and guidance regarding COVID-19 and hearing loss. While there are instances where those with COVID-19 experienced hearing loss, the exact nature of this relationship still remains relatively unknown.

Challenges for those with hearing loss

For those who already experienced hearing loss prior to the beginning of the pandemic, COVID-19 has created additional challenges as well. The introduction of face masks, social distancing, and other protective measures have especially affected those who have difficulty hearing. Those with hearing loss struggle with these measure because:

They hear better with access to visual cues

Due to the pandemic, the World Health Organization has strongly advocated for the use of face masks to curb the spread of the disease. However, masks cover the face, and therefore lip reading and observing facial expressions become challenging. 

Most places also have screens or visors as an additional protective barrier between employees and customers. This poses a challenge to people with hearing loss because they are no longer able to rely on visual cues.

They hear better when they are closer to the speaker

Social distancing is another form of protection against the spread of the virus that makes hearing very challenging. When you struggle to hear someone you instinctively want them to stand and speak closer to you. However, in these current times, this poses a threat to your safety.

While these challenges can be frustrating, there are ways for those with hearing loss to improve communication.

Tips for those with hearing loss during the COVID-19 pandemic

Ensure your hearing aids is working properly

If you already use a hearing aid to treat your hearing loss, make sure that it fits and is functioning properly, as this will greatly help your ability to hear.

Communicate your hearing loss

Remember that hearing aids these days are small and discreet, so other people will not be able to see them and therefore will not know that you have difficulty hearing. If you are comfortable doing so, let them know that you have hearing loss and you need them to communicate more clearly and slowly.

Speak slowly and clearly

Encourage the person you’re speaking with to do the same.

Watch the speaker closely

Practice appropriate social distancing but watch the speaker closely—they may still use gestures and other visible facial expressions which will help you to understand them.

Ask closed-ended questions

It will be easier to hear and understand responses if you ask closed-ended questions (Question: “Is the toilet paper in aisle 7?” Response: “Yes”/Nod head) instead of open-ended questions (Question: “Where can I find the toilet paper?” Response: “Perhaps you can have a look in aisle 7.”)

Use alternative forms of communication

When possible, use other forms of communication such as a written shopping list of items so that you can point to what you need.

Don’t compromise safety

Do not remove your mask or expect the other person to remove theirs. It is a safety and preventative measure that is important and should be respected.

How to wear a mask with hearing aids

Some hearing aid users may be having difficulty wearing their hearing aids with a mask, especially if they wear behind-the-ear hearing aids. A pair of spectacles can make it even more tricky as they all rest on the space behind the ears. Here are some tips that could make wearing a mask with hearing aids more comfortable. 

  1. Rather than wearing a mask with two elastics that go around the ears, wear a mask that has four elastics that can be tied at the back of the head.
  2. Be very careful when you remove your mask, and do so as little as possible, in case your hearing aids fall off.
  3. Purchase a button extender for your mask so that the elastics are extended further behind your head and do not have to attach directly behind your ears.
  4. If you can, use your hair to hold the elastics in place away from your ears. For example, tie your hair in a bun and hook the elastic around the bun.

This free infographic contains tips to assist with more effective communication when wearing a mask. Right-click here to download it to your device and share it with your loved ones.

Free infographic with tips on effective communication when living with a hearing loss and wearing a mask.
Free infographic with tips on effective communication when living with hearing loss and wearing a mask.

Treating Hearing Loss During the COVID-19 Pandemic

For those who prefer to receive in-person treatment, many hearing specialists are still open and consulting whilst ensuring that they are taking all the precautions necessary for your safety.

Some specialists are engaged in online consultations for those who are very reluctant to be in contact with other people, so contact your closest hearing health practitioner to enquire if they are taking all the necessary precautions at their rooms and how they can best assist you with assessing your hearing.

However, remote hearing healthcare is also available so that you do not need to leave your home to get tested. Lexie Hearing can help in just three simple steps:

Take an online hearing test

Lexie’s free online hearing test can be taken from the comfort of your home. Results are available in minutes, allowing you to easily and quickly determine if there is potential hearing loss and a diagnostic hearing test is required.

Order your hearing aids

If the online hearing test indicates that you do need a hearing aid, you can order your hearing aids directly from the Lexie Hearing website.

Download the Lexie Hearing App

Your hearing aids will be delivered directly to your home within 5 days. Once they arrive, take the hearing check using the Lexie Hearing App, program your hearing aids to the results, and personalize your devices. You can also reach out to a Lexie Hearing expert right from the app should you need assistance.

In these three steps from Lexie Hearing, you will be on your way to better hearing without having to risk your health. For more information, contact us today.

Image of post writer Hema Thakor.

Written by Hema Thakor

B. Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology

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