coronavirus isolation hearing loss

What a HoH Can Do During Isolation

Editor’s Note: HoH is short for hard of hearing, but is increasingly understood to be a person with hearing loss who uses residual hearing, speech and technology to communicate.


So, fellow HoHs – what are you going to do today? Tomorrow? Every day, all day, until this global pandemic is a thing of the past?

Besides not hear very well?

The lucky people are working from home. They’re lucky because they haven’t lost their jobs like millions of other people and because they have something to do!

Faced with weeks of “free” time, I’m not being as productive as I thought I would. Yes, I have reorganized my pantry. Sprouted those mung beans (and now trying to use up 3 quarts of sprouts). Trimmed the cats’ nails. Rearranged my writing space. The evenings are devoted to Netflix, PrimeVideo and the news. Without these, the Hearing Husband and I would have entered the “Severely Crabby” stage of this pandemic.

But we can’t watch TV or rearrange the soup cans all the time. We need to do different things so we won’t bore ourselves crazy, so we can resist temptation to go out where we shouldn’t.  People with hearing loss – there are opportunities in this horrendous pandemic to solve some of our common communication and connection issues.

  1. Who can solve the unique problem of speechreading a masked face? Who can  figure out how to understand someone who is standing 6’ away – and wearing a mask!? You know they’re talking because:
    1. their eyes are on you,
    2. their mask is moving,
    3. their hands are gesturing,
    4. their eyebrows are going up, down and sideways,
    5. and you hear what are most certainly words.

But what words? If you say pardon, the mask just moves faster and the sounds just come out louder. This does not help. You can be forgiven for saying, “Sorry, but I have hearing loss and I don’t understand. Do you need help? If so, could you ask someone else? Or write it down and I’ll try to read it from over here. Or – lower your mask and mouth the words, with no spit. Otherwise, have a nice day and stay safe.”  

  1. TV and computer captions speech keeps us connected. If you don’t like how your captions look on your TV, you can adjust the caption format by going into Settings. (And, as we say in Canada, good luck with that, eh.) Online captioning is there if you look for it.  I just discovered that YouTube offers built-in automated speech recognition (ASR) which has made life much more accessible for me.
  2. Are you using automated speech recognition to caption live conversations in your life? You can download an ASR app to your phone. I use Otter but there are any many others available. Your phone might offer speech-to-text already. If I’m watching an uncaptioned video, or I want to understand someone in a noisy restaurant, I switch on Otter and hold my phone close to the source of speech.
  3. If your partner or children are getting on your nerves during this forced confinement, how about learning some family sign language? Many sites such as this offer simple phrases to learn. Or, look up a particular phrase such as go away (and leave me alone’). 
  4. Just asking – are you giving your hearing devices the love they need? Have you cleaned out cerumen (ear wax) from the air vent? Have you replaced the wax guards yet this year? Are your dry aids doing their job? 

There is a more important thing that people with hearing loss can do – support each other.  John Maxwell, a leadership author and speaker, has a course called “Leadership Through Crisis” and his message is that it’s important for each of us to take a lead to reach out and support others and to keep those connections open. Crisis creates a distraction, we get off course, we stop making progress,  we worry.  It is also a time to be adaptable, to adjust to the changes that are being enforced on us.

We can do this. Instead of avoiding social media completely, just ignore the depressing and vicious stuff and spend time on hearing loss and tinnitus social media groups. I guarantee you will come across  people who are anxious or sad about their hearing issues, and if you can reach out with some supportive comments, you will help both yourself and others to get through another day.

In this time when we can’t be physically close to other people, we can connect in other ways. We can use words, FaceTime, virtual games and many other ideas to keep people close. And healthy. And safe.


Photo: Cindy Dyer

About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a writer, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog for, which has an international following, Gael wrote the acclaimed book "The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss". She is regularly invited to present her uniquely humorous and insightful work to appreciative audiences around the world. Gael has received many awards for her work, which includes advocacy for a more inclusive society for people with hearing loss. She lives with her husband on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

1 Comment

  1. Gael,
    Thank you so much for your wonderfully informative, realistic, and insightful articles. I routinely share them with the students in my lipreading (speechreading) class.

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