My hearing loss was at the forefront of my mind when I was suddenly thrust into this pandemic. How would I navigate the world without lip reading? How would I communicate through an additional sound barrier? Masks are necessary for public health, but they present a huge challenge for people with hearing loss and deafness.
With hearing loss comes assistive devices, which, in my case, means hearing aids. I also have vision impairments that cannot be corrected with contacts, so I wear glasses too. Add in earloop masks and my ears have become Grand Central Station! But there is just not enough real estate behind my ears to have so many things taking up space. At least not comfortably.
While I have learned how to live with hearing loss, finding masks I can wear and how I can wear a mask, hearing aids, and glasses together are new challenges for me. But don’t worry. I have come up with my own mask hacks for people with hearing loss, and I am ready to share this knowledge.
First, I recognize that my mask, hearing aids, and glasses share equal priority. I need to see, hear, and do my part to keep myself and my community safe by wearing a mask. There is no wiggle room with my hearing aids and glasses, they’ve established their space. So, I had to get creative with my mask.
Here are my mask hacks for people with hearing loss (and/or glasses):
1. The Glasses Mask
The glasses mask is unique in that the fabric slides onto the arms of your glasses. One style uses magnets to create the bottom seal. I find this mask much more tedious to put on and generally only use it when I will be wearing a mask for longer than an hour. Tedious application aside, the fabric is very soft, my glasses don’t fog and there is no additional material behind my ears.
2. Headbands with Buttons
Headbands with buttons are helpful. Initially, I got a few of these for my daughter but I soon realized they could help me as well. The mask’s earloops go around the buttons on the headband. The loops go around/near the ears which isn’t ideal, but is still better because the ears don’t actually bear weight. You can find many cute designs to fit your style or mood.
3. Hair Clips
“Jaw style” hair clips have helped me in a pinch. During a recent trip to the hospital, they required me to use a hospital mask upon entry (instead of my own). At first, I couldn’t get the mask to fit right. I soon realized the ear loops had a bit more stretch to them. I was able to pull the loops back and clip them in my hair clip to hold them tight- and to spare my ears.
Similar to the hair clips, there are a multitude of “ear saver” devices that can give you an alternative place to attach the mask’s ear loops. If you’re crafty you may even be able to fashion your own.
Tie masks are also helpful in freeing up space and pressure behind the ears. They can be a little tricky to tie behind your head, but they’re worth the effort.
While not ideal, it is possible to use the standard earloop masks with hearing aids and glasses. Be cautious when removing the mask though because if the loop catches your hearing aid just right, it can become a slingshot! It sounds funny, but it can feel incredibly frustrating and disorienting to abruptly have the world go silent. You also don’t want to be searching in a parking lot or your car for an expensive, lost (and potentially damaged) hearing aid.