Survey: 3 in 5 US Adults Report Struggling to Hear or Engage in Conversation While Wearing a Mask

August 3, 2020

CARSON CITY, NEVADA — An estimated 48 million American adults are affected by hearing loss. With the rise of mask and/or face coverings across much of the country, hearing is becoming an even greater challenge for many. 

Hearing device maker, Olive Union, recently commissioned a nationwide survey of 1,500 US adults exploring the extent to which hearing impairment affects Americans, particularly given the rising use of facemasks which has reportedly made hearing increasingly difficult. 


Most U.S. adults are affected by some degree hearing loss 


According to the survey results, 82% of US adults indicate they experience hearing trouble at varying frequencies of time, and 64% of US adults know of a family member or friend who has experienced hearing loss. 

Among those who currently experience any frequency of hearing loss, hearing has proven most difficult in the following situations: 

  • At a restaurant (45%) 
  • Watching television (44%) 
  • While on speaker phone (38%) 


Facemask wearing recommendations have increased the incidence of hearing trouble among all US adults 


Per the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, 63% of US adults have found themselves struggling to hear or engage in conversation while wearing a mask – which is notably higher than the roughly 15% of US adults affected by hearing loss to begin with, a stronger marker that this issue extends much further than the hearing loss community. 

Of this group, 2 out of 3 report that they’ve questioned their hearing abilities. Many are finding it difficult to understand what others are saying while unable to read their lips at the same time (69%). This has led many to have to ask others to repeat themselves (90%) or pretend to understand what another person is saying (76%). 

These challenges may linger for quite some time, given that many believe we’ll need to keep wearing masks in public for the foreseeable future; those slightly hard of hearing may experience increased difficulty in understanding those around them. 


Yet, there is reluctance to address hearing loss as rapidly as vision loss 

More than half of Americans say that they’d wait until their hearing ability had declined by 50% or more prior to using an aid. For comparison, only about 30% would wait until their vision abilities had declined by 50% or more before wearing glasses, showing a clear difference in the stigma often associated with wearing hearing aids. 

So where does that leave us? 


Given the prevalence of hearing struggles that many are living with, amplified by the communication challenges associated with mask wearing, the use of a hearing device offers not only support, but the ability to continue connecting with both content and people around us – while remaining 6 feet apart. 

Yet, the primary deterrents from using such devices often come down to the associated social stigmas. 35% of respondents stated that they’d be unwilling to use a hearing device due to ‘feeling elderly’ and 19% feel wearing it daily would be an additional burden to daily life. 

“Our response to the global pandemic has confirmed that a tremendous number of US adults suffer from some level of hearing loss, as mask-wearing eliminated our brain’s final tools of lip-reading, visual cues and facial expressions for filling in the blanks,” Owen Song, Founder and CEO of Olive Union notes. “Our mission is to remove any social barriers to hearing loss with Olive’s smart and sleek solutions that help everyone improve their hearing, and lives.” 


About Olive Union

Founded by CEO Owen Song, Olive Union’s mission is to remove the stigma associated with impaired hearing with well-designed, functional, affordable wearables. Olive Union launched its first product in January 2020, the Olive Smart Ear, an affordable, wireless, single-ear hearing amplifier.


Source: Olive Union 

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