Double-masking against COVID is a problem for deaf or hard of hearing

A recent survey by the Hearing Loss Association of America found that 95 percent of respondents with hearing loss say masks and facial coverings have created communication barriers since the COVID-19 pandemic began—a problem that could get worse if people take the advice of government and public health officials and start wearing two masks as additional protection.

According to the association (HLAA), masks muffle voices, making it more difficult to understand normal speech and some higher-pitched voices. Masks also take away the ability to read lips and see facial expressions, both of which help hard-of-hearing people better understand what someone is communicating.

“ASHA strongly supports all public-health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but we also want to make the public aware of the tremendous challenges that people who are deaf or hard of hearing are experiencing right now—which are only poised to increase with double masks,” said A. Lynn Williams, president of ASHA. To help avoid the “frustration” and possible risks “in medical or emergency situations”  that accompany difficulty hearing, ASHA recommends:

  • Moving to a quiet place if you can.
  • Making sure you have the other person’s attention before speaking. Face them directly.
  • Talk a little louder (but don’t shout) and a little slower.
  • Use your hands and body language.
  • If someone doesn’t understood yo, say it a different way or write it down.
  • Use other forms of communication if necessary, such as speech-to-text apps.

ASHA is a national association for 211,000 members and affiliates who are audiologists and other speech, language, and hearing professionals and students. More information is available at