Dad Can't Read Lips During This Age of Mask-Wearing
"My father has severe hearing loss. He wears a hearing aid, though even with that he can’t hear well. He basically reads lips. With the mask wearing that we all do now, Dad feels lost.
He has become quite frustrated and grumpy. He does not even want me to come over, or talk to me at all. I’m afraid that he is becoming depressed. He was already isolated, and now he’s completely alone without what little conversation we had.
Are there any solutions for people who are hard of hearing in the midst of this mask-wearing frenzy?"
I don’t know if I would call it a frenzy, but yes, mask wearing is what we are all doing to protect ourselves and each other during this pandemic. Frankly, it is essential to take all reasonable precautions to prevent transmission of this disease.
For your father, a bit of adaptation needs to occur so that he does not become more and more isolated. Most people that are hard of hearing like your father resort to accommodation, with lip reading being the most common. Individuals with hearing loss do hear you, but in most cases they cannot discern the details of what you said. They use the motions of your mouth, the context of the conversation, and other words that they can make out to figure out what you’re saying. Their accuracy at understanding the conversation depends on the severity of their loss and their skill at lip reading. The longer the individual has had the hearing loss, the better their adaptation is likely to be. Unfortunately, hearing losses often continue to worsen, and they rely more and more on lip reading.
Your father likely needs to see your lips for any meaningful conversation to occur, so you will need to figure out how to make that happen. It is as simple as a clear mask or a center section of a mask that is see-through plastic. The internet is your friend on this. There will be multiple options on the web, or you could make this a DIY project. Additionally, search for your local hearing society. I am certain that at this point they can direct you to a source for masks with a clear center.
Until you secure a clear mask, you could hold up a clear piece of Plexiglas in front of your face. Another option is to get creative and create your own face shield that you see hospital and COVID testing folks wear. With a little bit of vinyl and some elastic you can make something simple that will create the barrier that you need and give your father access to see you speak.
There is never just one answer or solution to a problem, and I hope that I have given you some helpful suggestions. I do agree that your father needs to see you speak, and doing that in a way that also protects him is a good choice for you.
I wish you success in your shared journey.
Family Caregiving Advice Column
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