Maintaining Your Hearing Health Amid COVID-19

The world has changed a lot in the past few weeks. Physical distancing due to COVID-19 has closed restaurants, theaters, and many other “non-essential” businesses, prioritizing health care and access to food and medicines above all else. This has caused many of us to self-isolate, keeping our distance for our safety and that of others, to help flatten the curve of infections. For people with hearing loss, maintaining our hearing health and having access to working hearing aids and other communication devices are critical as we adapt to various ongoing—and often stressful—changes.

Despite this challenging time, stay on top of your hearing health with these tips.

Woman wearing face mask

Managing Your Hearing Loss Amid COVID-19

1. Take an inventory.

Make sure you have plenty of hearing batteries on hand to keep your devices functioning for at least eight weeks. Replenish supplies online or ask your local pharmacy or supermarket to deliver some to your home. Many pharmacies are offering free delivery for prescription items; they may do the same for hearing aid batteries. Your audiologist may also have extras on hand they can send to you. Check out a subscription battery service for home delivery such as HearOClub.

2. Explore telehealth options.

Call your audiologist about teleaudiology options, which are remote hearing care services using video conferencing technology in place of an in-person visit. Video calls are preferable to audio-only calls because they allow for lipreading. Skype, a free video calling service, provides live captions for all calls. While the captioning quality can vary, it will help fill in some of the gaps you may miss. Call your insurance provider about your telehealth coverage, since Medicare, for example, has recently expanded its coverage for telehealth to help seniors during this public health emergency.

3. Utilize curbside, contact-less services if available.

Check for drop-off and curbside services that your audiologists may be offering. If available, observe CDC guidance on physical distancing by staying in your car while the audiologist or a team member comes to pick up your device. If the repair is quick, wait in your car until the device is returned to you. For larger repairs, schedule a time for curbside pick-up of the repair at a later date. Don’t hesitate to ask the audiology clinic about their infection control strategies to make sure that devices are returned clean and ready for your use.

4. Stay as connected as possible.

Speak to someone by phone or video chat each day or two to stay connected to friends and family. Speaking on the phone can be challenging for people with hearing loss, but many captioned phone options exist. Explore this list compiled by the Hearing Loss Association of America. Read Your COVID-19 Hearing Loss Survival Guide for more tips on coping with the added isolation of social distancing.

5. Experiment with a variety of communication tools.

With more conversations moving to phone and video calls, and in-person chats taking place behind medical masks, you may need to use additional tools for communication. Try a speech-to-text app like Live Transcribe (only for Android), Otter, or Ava to create captions on demand. Other options like a Boogie Board or a small whiteboard work well for short messages. Paper and pen are also a good option.

6. Consider a backup hearing device.

Should your hearing aids stop working, and you are unable to have them repaired, try a smartphone amplifier such as Ear Machine. This and similar apps allow you to use your smartphone and a pair of headphones to amplify sound in real-time. Consider an over-the-counter personal sound amplifier product (PSAP) or a pocket talker. These are not hearing aids but might be able to get you through a crisis. These options will work best for those with mild to moderate hearing loss and need a little hearing enhancement in specific situations.

7. Prepare a communication kit. 

If you need to seek additional medical attention, call ahead first. If you are told to visit the doctor, bring your hearing aids, extra batteries, chargers and any additional communication devices you have discovered from your experimentation activities. Create signs for you to wear or be displayed in your hospital room to remind medical personnel about your hearing loss. If safe to do so, bring a friend or loved one to assist. If you are hospitalized or for any medical visits, review HLAA’s Guide for Effective Communication in Health Care.

The COVID-19 pandemic is making life more challenging for everyone. Prioritize your hearing health by staying in touch with your audiologist and other hearing health professionals. With flexibility, creativity, and willingness to try new communication technology, we can protect our health without neglecting our hearing.

Readers, how are you managing your hearing health care amid COVID-19?

A version of this article was originally published on The Hearing Journal’s website. Reproduced with their permission.  

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24 thoughts on “Maintaining Your Hearing Health Amid COVID-19

  1. My home captioning service is so overwhelmed that it cannot provide timely captioning. It’s not usable to me. Luckily I have a captioning phone app. I’d be in big trouble if I had nothing.

  2. What has happened to me is, less traffic has taken away background noise and hum. I have heard birdsong for the first time in 20 years at our home. Beautiful.

  3. Solid Post! You are still providing valuable critical information during these unusual times. It shows you are a very thoughtful and committed person. Thank you.

  4. We have kindles. It would really be nice if ava, live transcribe and otter were available from the Amazon app store.
    I am trying to load the Google store in my kindle, but it is really complicated to do.

  5. I find the Microsoft Translator speech to text app to work best for all devices. I like Google Live Transcribe, but I have an iPhone and AVA is expensive. I haven’t tried Otter very much, but it doesn’t seem set up for 1 to 1 conversation as well as Translator.

  6. Being an RN with hearing loss, my newest challenge is dealing with masks, it is impossible to rely on some lip reading. I know they make masks with windows in them but they are difficult to come by like all other PPE, I work in an outpatient clinic setting and there could be a possibility of having to deploy to the hospital if needed. My stress level is at an all time high right now.

    • I can only imagine what you are dealing with at the moment. Hang in there and thank you for all your efforts to take care of others. We are rooting for you!

  7. I’d love to know how to set up captioning on Zoom. I’ve stopped Zooming because I feel more isolated when I can see but not hear.

  8. How do you get captioning on Zoom? I’ve been trying for 2 weeks to figure that out. Help!

  9. Hello, Allyson from Care Captions, LLC here. I just wanted to reach out and let you know that we are available for live, real-time captioning in the healthcare setting. Feel free to contact me and I’m happy to help advocate for your needs!

  10. We are now being asked to mask in IL, but it’s going to be darn uncomfortable for me loop a mask around my ears when I wear both glasses and BTEs. I’m going to try making my own masks with ties.

    • That is a good idea. I also saw that people were sewing buttons onto a headband and attaching the straps to that to keep them off the ears. Thanks for your comment.

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