Mask exemptions and community understanding 

Mask exemptions and community understanding 

A personal account from one of our members Jill Lindley.

Medical mask-wearing has apparently been around since the 17th century – no doubt as discombobulating* then as now!

Mask exemptions do exist

The potential for frustration and for unsafe miscommunication is high if you are deaf or hard of hearing. So, it was a relief to find the following in a fairly long list of exemptions on Queensland Health’s website:  if you are “anyone who is communicating with those who are deaf or hard of hearing, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.”

Armed with this information, I went forth into the pandemic world — to the doctor, the physio, the post office, an electrical goods store and more.

ALSO READ: Mask Exemptions and the Hard of Hearing
ALSO READ: 12 Tips for Communicating when Wearing Masks
Adjusting Hearing Aids to Compensate for Masks

Lack of knowledge and understanding

The only place where I had a negative reaction to my request for mask removal was at the electrical goods store, where I was attended by a teenage store person. I suspect that the store manager would have given strict instructions to staff regarding mask-wearing. I asked to speak to a senior person and… mask removed!

For me, of course, it was the difference between understanding – and not having a clue as to what was being said! A good experience. By the way, I carried a copy of the webpage with exemptions in my handbag – just in case. Given the high incidence of hearing impairment of residents in aged care accommodation, I often wonder how those residents cope in this COVID-19 age when staff need to wear masks and sometimes full PPE?

Transparent masks a solution?

By the way, have you seen pictures of masks with a transparent section?  If they could manufacture such a mask of a quality appropriate for a health care setting – wouldn’t this be a great and reassuring safety feature? And what about when you are expected to give informed consent to those behind masks? I often wonder, for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, how often this is uninformed consent?

There is another aspect of communication that one deals with, mask or no mask, that I find discombobulating too – rapid speech! The world is in a hurry and society’s speech mirrors that!

I am waiting for some enterprising person to create a remote, which can be linked to my hearing aids, so that I can just point it in the direction of the rapid speaker and hey presto – the speech reaching my hearing aids is slowed in real-time. They can put man on the moon, a Rover on Mars – surely that Remote is possible!

Jill Lindley

Jill Lindley’s first contact with BHA Brisbane was when her husband took her to a BHA meeting when it was still in Eagle Street back in the 1980s. We were both involved in the setting up of the Redlands group as an outreach of BHA in 2001 where they are still very involved. Jill, along with her husband Peter, is a BHA Brisbane Honorary Life Member.

Do you have a hearing experience you would like to share? We’d love to hear from you.

*Discombobulating: according to the Free Dictionary means confuse, disconcert, upset, frustrate – so appropriate!!!

Photo by Kai Pilger on Unsplash

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