Senior male with mask

Ten years ago, the National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), part of the National Institutes for Health (NIH), stated that among Americans, approximately one-third over the age of 65 had hearing loss, along with half of Americans over the age of 75. Approximately 10 years before that, hearing loss was identified as the third-most prevalent health condition persistently ailing Americans, classifying hearing loss as an epidemic, or a disease largely occurring in a community at a particular time.

Twenty years later, health professionals across the world are racing to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, a global pandemic – a disease affecting the whole world. So, what does it mean for your hearing health?

Communication Styles are Changing

It is now commonplace for people to wear face coverings of some sort when in public. Masks and scarves are helpful in preventing aspiration from reaching another person but can be problematic for those used to reading lips in regular conversation.

Face shields are a great alternative to other coverings as they allow for greater visibility of a person’s mouth and expressions but also point sound away from the person who may be experiencing difficulty in conversation. If the person having trouble hearing is the person wearing the shield, the amplification of their own voice and plexiglass barrier may further hinder other sounds reaching their ears.

In-Person Events are Less Common

 Many who avoided the telephone or more complicated video calls in lieu of face-to-face interaction are not able to meet friends or family in person anymore. In peoples’ homes, and especially in senior living facilities, “being isolated with not being able to hear and understand the TV, not being able to communicate with family, staff, or residents has really highlighted the need to take next steps in order to be able to connect with those giving them care,” says Licensed Hearing Aid Specialist from our Quad Cities clinic, Kat Klauer. “Further, they want to be able to connect with their loved ones in the only available channel they can: the phone. This is a difficult mode of communication for those who have untreated hearing loss.”

Symptoms

Many of the symptoms or outcomes of hearing loss can be confusing in light of coronavirus symptoms or outcomes being very similar to one another. For instance, isolation has become a recommended way of living for those who have a high risk of having negative results of contracting coronavirus. Isolation is also a symptom of developing hearing loss and can lead to depression and a permanent loss of language understanding without intervening treatment.

Sudden hearing loss has been noted as a symptom of coronavirus, though the cases are on the rare side. More often, we are starting to see hearing loss be an outcome of someone who has already had and overcome coronavirus, though there are still cases being recorded, and there is a need for a larger study of how the virus affects hearing.

The Takeaway

In 2020, communication – with loved ones, with our health care providers, and with the general community – has become more of a necessity than it’s possibly ever been. If you have been experiencing difficulty in conversations, are feeling more isolated than before, and especially if you have experienced a sudden loss of hearing at any level, it’s time for you to schedule a hearing test.