Image of a senior man being visited by a clinician, both wearing face masks

Fully 95% of people with hearing loss in the United States say that the masks and face coverings worn during the pandemic are creating communication barriers, and more than half say they are experiencing anxiety and isolation as a result.

That’s according to the Hearing Loss Association of America and hearing implant maker Cochlear, which surveyed almost 1,400 people, some with recent hearing loss and others with long-term hearing loss. Most respondents were aged between 55 and 90 years, and based on survey answers, a proportion (not measured) reside in assisted living or independent living communities.

Surveyors found that 70% of respondents are more aware of their hearing loss due to the pandemic constraints, and 89% have had to contend with increased accessibility issues, including the inability to lipread due to face masks and physical distancing. Approximately a third say they have experienced a lack of empathy from others regarding their hearing loss during the pandemic. 

These pandemic-related issues are prompting feelings of isolation, forgetfulness and confusion, respondents said.

Many (68%) of respondents are using more technology to communicate, but half of those say their hearing loss makes using some platforms challenging — especially when there is no captioning. About half said that they use assistive hearing devices in these situations.

Half of respondents reported that their hearing-health medical care provider offers remote care options, and 36% say they have used, or have thought of using, remote care options during the pandemic. 

“Research has long shown untreated hearing loss can negatively impact a person’s quality of life – and with masks and distancing, the impact the pandemic has had on people with hearing loss is enormous,” said Barbara Kelley, executive director, HLAA.

“I hope coming out of this pandemic we will see people continue to take their hearing loss seriously and treat it appropriately, as well as continue to see greater standards on accessibility to help those with hearing loss.”