In the UK, face masks and coverings became mandatory in public on the 24th July, 2020. They are now a feature of everyday life – in shops, at school and even when out and about.
This has been a daunting time for me and many other deaf and hard of hearing people, along with those who rely on facial expressions to communicate clearly.
I use lipreading as a means to communicate in every aspect of my daily life. To communicate freely, it is important for those of us who lipread to be able to see someone’s lips and facial expressions. If we can’t, it can make communication difficult and increase social anxiety. 30% of communication is on our lips.
Most experts agree that around 70% of all communication is non-verbal, with facial expressions and micro-expressions all contributing to communication. So, when a person covers their lips and most of their face, communication can be greatly affected.
As face coverings are one of the recommended means to curb this pandemic, I wanted to share some tips for communicating with someone who relies on lip reading, or uses hearing aids, cochlear implants or other devices.
Here are 5 tips for communicating with someone who lipreads:
Before you start speaking, get their attention by waving or tapping their shoulder
Always face them when talking so they can see your whole face
Speak at a normal pace and pause in between sentences
Choose areas with good lighting to have a discussion
Use expressive hand gestures and body language
Have you considered using a transparent face mask? Over the past months transparent masks have become more widely accepted. This is because it isn’t just deaf people who struggle to communicate with people whose faces are covered, those who are autistic, have anxiety or panic disorders have expressed increased challenges and communication barriers since the introduction of face coverings.
Remember to lower your mask briefly if asked by a deaf person, ensuring you are more than six feet away so no one is at risk.
My hope is that this period of covering our faces will make the wider community aware of the challenges faced by deaf, hard of hearing and other people. Once the pandemic is a distant memory, hopefully we can all benefit from clearer communication.
This article was written by Nicola Hickling, a contributing writer for Deaf Unity. Nicola lives in Cornwall and has worn a cochlear implant for 22 years. She is a passionate advocate for the Deaf Community and runs a popular IG account: the_cochlear_community – check it out!