Pandemic brings new challenges for those with hearing loss, advocates are helping make it work

ByCornell W. Barnard KGO logo
Thursday, August 6, 2020
Pandemic brings new challenges for those with hearing loss, advocates are helping make it work
With masks muffling the sound of people's voices and taking away the ability to read lips, the pandemic has brought an array of communication challenges for those with hearing loss.

PACIFICA, Calif. (KGO) -- The pandemic has presented a long list of challenges for all of us this year, but for those who are deaf, or struggle with hearing loss, those challenges are often multiplied considerably.

Advocates in the Bay Area are helping to make it work.

"More often, I ask people to repeat themselves," said Kate Favor.

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Favor, from Pacifica, never imagined how challenging and exhausting the pandemic could be.

"It's a lot of listening effort. At the end of the day, I'm tired," said she said.

Favor is a clinical audiologist and has hearing loss herself. She wears a hearing aid, and often reads people's lips, but that's impossible when everyone is now required to wear a mask.

"To cover the mouth with a mask it muffles our speech a lot," Favor added.

Favor treats patients at the Hearing and Speech Center of Northern California, a non-profit in San Francisco that's helping the deaf and those with hearing loss navigate things like Zoom meetings, which can be incredibly frustrating.

"If there's a lot of peple on call, you can't find people talking and follow along, so people feel isolated," said Jessie Johnson from the Hearing and Speech Center.

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Zoom doesn't offer captioning but several apps do and can transcibe what's being said on your screen.

A big game-changer for those with hearing loss are masks with a clear panel where you can see someone's lips, but they're not perfect.

"The fogging up, it happens quite often," Favor added.

ABC7 News Technical Operations Manager Michel Camus is challenged with wearing a mask and a hearing aid. Extenders can help a lot.

"You put it on like this, it doesn't go over the ears," said Camus.

Experts recommend insuring your hearing aids, they can be pricey to replace.

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