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Local doctor addresses face masks affecting communication

We all know masks are needed as a shield from the virus, but do we ever think about how this takes a toll on communicating effectively?
Published: Jan. 11, 2021 at 9:31 PM CST
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LAREDO, Tex. (KGNS) - We all know masks are needed as a shield from the virus, but do we ever think about how this takes a toll on communicating effectively?

There are many things that can get in the way of communicating effectively, one of them is not being able to hear well.

Now that we wear a face covering every day, communication isn’t as clear as it used to be.

“It takes away one of your senses, your sight.”

Like many Laredoans, people are noticing how face coverings can affect your senses and ability to hear.

Audiologist Doctor Celina Oliveira says visual cues are important for effective communication because they help convey messages, and now people are having trouble seeing someone speaking because of masks.

She believes hearing health care isn’t a priority in the gateway city and it’s been showing since face masks came into the picture early last year.

“We’re seeing a lot of undiagnosed hearing loss,” said Doctor Oliveira. “People who had some signs of hearing loss or were avoiding it, or maybe ignoring it, or maybe it wasn’t that prevalent in their lives are really struggling because we’re not giving them those visual cues, and on top of that were giving them six feet of distance.”

With about 30 million Americans having audio loss and the majority of the people over 65 having problems with hearing, while also facing the risk of COVID, it suggests patients need to get treated appropriately.

“Maybe the patient isn’t understanding everything that’s being told to them. Maybe they can’t make that call with the hospital phone because it’s not an amplified phone and they’re undiagnosed with hearing loss and they’re struggling.”

Dr. Oliveira has some recommendations.

“We use these masks because everyone can lip read, but some people have to rely on it more than others.”

According to the CDC, hearing loss is the third most common chronic condition and Dr. Oliveira says people with undetected hearing loss are more likely feeling more disconnected now with social distancing, isolation, and not being able to connect with people.

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