New York University

Face Masks Can be Devastating for People with Hearing loss, NYU professors say in British Medical Journal

Experts underscore ways to improve communication, such as transparent masks.
9-Jul-2020 12:20 PM EDT, by New York University

Newswise — During the COVID-19 pandemic, with masks covering the faces around us, it’s impossible to see the facial expressions and lip movements that are so vital to daily spoken communication – a problem that is particularly challenging to people with hearing loss.

In an essay today (July 9) in the British Medical Journal, Dr. Jan Blustein, professor of health policy and medicine at the Robert F Wagner  Graduate School of Public Service at New York University,  discusses the consequences of facemasks for communication in health care settings for patients with loss of hearing. The commentary was co-authored by her research colleagues Dr. Joshua Chodosh, professor of medicine and population health at New York University Grossman School of Medicine, and Barbara E. Weinstein, professor of audiology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

According to the researchers’ commentary, “Communication between patient and clinician is at the heart of medical care. Even before masks became ubiquitous, people with hearing loss struggled to communicate in healthcare settings, and poor communication was the likely cause of their documented worse health outcomes.  Now masks are blocking lip movements and facial expressions – and these are so important when hearing is marginal.  Masks also muffle the high-frequency portions of sound that are essential to speech.”

“Masking is challenging for everyone, but it is especially difficult for people with hearing loss,” noted Blustein.

Chodosh, a geriatrician, said that hearing loss is especially prevalent among older people. 

“Two-thirds of people age 70 and older have hearing loss,” he said. “Whenever we talk to an older patient, we need to be mindful that they may be having difficulty understanding speech.  In the masked era, this is even more important.”

The researchers recommended several ways for clinicians to overcome the barriers of masked communication, including simple strategies, such as facing the patient and getting their attention while speaking.  Visual aids, such as whiteboards, can facilitate communication, and some tech-savvy patients may use speech-to-text translation apps on their cell phones.  Simple, inexpensive personal amplifiers can provide needed amplification.  Finally, face masks with clear windows are emerging as favored solutions for people with hearing loss and those who are Deaf.  These masks are in short supply, and some do not satisfy current regulatory requirements for health care settings.  “However, this is an area for product innovation and practice change in the future,” according to Blustein.

“Masks also pose enormous barriers beyond health care settings for those who have hearing loss or are Deaf and use sign language,” noted Blustein. “This is the focus of growing activism and advocacy.  We need to protect ourselves and others, but we also must communicate.  Finding ways to satisfy both is a challenge needing urgent attention.” 


Filters close

Showing results

110 of 2776
Newswise:Video Embedded protocol-needed-to-monitor-covid-19-disease-course
Released: 3-Aug-2020 9:05 PM EDT
Protocol needed to monitor COVID-19 disease course
University of Washington School of Medicine and UW Medicine

Patients with underlying conditions such as asthma or other lung problems should be checked on regularly by pulmonologists or primary-care doctors for at least six months. Some will need to be monitored for one to three years, according to a new opinion piece posted online today in The Lancet-Respiratory Medicine.

Newswise: UM Cardiology Researchers Studying How COVID-19 Affects the Heart
Released: 3-Aug-2020 3:10 PM EDT
UM Cardiology Researchers Studying How COVID-19 Affects the Heart
University of Miami Health System, Miller School of Medicine

COVID-19 is shown to impact the heart and, in some cases, have long-lasting cardiac effects. To discover the extent to which COVID-19 affects the heart, cardiologists and researchers with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine have begun multiple studies.

Newswise: Tackling the Bioethics Challenges Raised by COVID-19
Released: 3-Aug-2020 3:05 PM EDT
Tackling the Bioethics Challenges Raised by COVID-19
University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing

The diverse situations experienced by health-care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic often present serious ethical challenges. From the allocation of resources and triage protocols to health-care worker and patient rights and the management of clinical trials, new ethical questions have come to the forefront of today’s global public health emergency.

Newswise: 239156_web.jpg
Released: 3-Aug-2020 2:50 PM EDT
New species of fungus sticking out of beetles named after the COVID-19 quarantine
Pensoft Publishers

A major comprehensive study on Herpomycetales and Laboulbeniales, two orders of unique ectoparasitic fungi associated with insects and other arthropods (class Laboulbeniomycetes) in Belgium and the Netherlands was published in the open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal MycoKeys.

Released: 3-Aug-2020 1:30 PM EDT
Consumer Behavior Has Shifted Significantly During Pandemic, Survey Reveals
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about an increase in telework and online commerce, and a significant decrease in the number of personal trips people are making. Understanding the effects of these rapid changes on the economy, supply chains, and the environment will be essential, as some of these behaviors will continue even after the pandemic has ended. Researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute recently presented the results of two sets of surveys they conducted in an effort to quantify and understand these unprecedented shifts.

access_time Embargo lifts in 2 days
Embargo will expire: 5-Aug-2020 12:05 AM EDT Released to reporters: 3-Aug-2020 12:25 PM EDT

A reporter's PressPass is required to access this story until the embargo expires on 5-Aug-2020 12:05 AM EDT The Newswise PressPass gives verified journalists access to embargoed stories. Please log in to complete a presspass application. If you have not yet registered, please Register. When you fill out the registration form, please identify yourself as a reporter in order to advance to the presspass application form.

31-Jul-2020 4:05 PM EDT
The effects of COVID-19 on emergency visits, hospitalizations
Mayo Clinic

COVID-19 swept into the U.S., hospitals across the country have reported that their emergency departments are emptying out. In a new study published Monday, Aug. 3, in JAMA Internal Medicine, a team of researchers from multiple institutions provides insights into this phenomenon.

Newswise: Important Dementia Studies Continuing at UK Despite Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic
Released: 3-Aug-2020 10:20 AM EDT
Important Dementia Studies Continuing at UK Despite Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic
University of Kentucky

The COVID-19 pandemic brought many things to a screeching halt and continues to impact our daily lives. However, important research at the University of Kentucky’s Sanders-Brown Center on Aging (SBCoA) is continuing under extreme caution and deep dedication. A monumental study in the field of dementia research is set to get underway in the coming weeks at UK.

Showing results

110 of 2776