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The Consequence of COVID-19 I Didn't Anticipate as Someone With Hearing Loss

While the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has affected my mental health significantly, I was surprised how much it began to affect my life in other ways, too. I don’t talk about being hearing impaired much because I’ve learned to live with it in a way that’s become standard to me. Sure, I’m required to wear hearing aids, I need closed captions and still need things repeated often, but that’s normal for me. Besides, I read lips well, which makes up for what I can’t quite pick up.

However, I never realized how much I rely on reading lips until now. While I was still in school and my professors would hold online classes, I had no clue what they were saying. The video was never clear enough to where I could see my professor’s face enough to read lips, and there was often excessive background noise that made picking out voices hard. I eventually stopped going completely because it was a waste of my time if I didn’t know what was going on.

And now, with everyone in masks, I’m picking up less and less. As doctor’s offices have begun opening back up, I catch maybe only 50 percent of what’s being said to me because they’re talking through a mask. I’ve had some new health problems come up lately for which I’ve had to see several new doctors and specialists. Trying to figure out what exactly they’ve gone over with me, especially if they don’t record notes in a portal or a written summary, is extremely difficult.

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Even working from home has been a major challenge. We use video conferencing for most of our meetings, but between video lag and poor video quality, it’s still challenging to try to read lips. Google Hangouts offers real-time subtitles, for which I am extremely grateful (I don’t think I’d get any accurate notes during meetings otherwise), but even those are often inaccurate. With my anxiety, I don’t want to bother my coworkers or boss, so I don’t mention it, especially because it’s not nearly as bad as many others. Plus, I’m not even sure how much they could do for me given the circumstances.

In no way am I bashing masks or suggesting not wearing a mask, by the way. I believe all places should require masks right now and I completely support the enforcement of them. I just didn’t realize how much they would hinder my ability to understand others. As I said, COVID has affected me in a lot of ways, I just didn’t anticipate this as being one. So, in the meantime, if I ask you to repeat something (once, twice, three times…), please be patient with me. Like all of us right now, I’m doing the best I can!

For more on the coronavirus, check out the following stories from our community:

Getty image by Yulia Sutyagina.