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Communicating in a Time of Covid

Communicating in a Time of Covid

Here at AVA Hearing Center, we know that many of the precautions being used to keep us all safe are also going to interfere with the way we communicate. We have some suggestions to help you stay connected to the people in your life.

MASKS: Reading facial expression and lip movements are two activities most of us use to supplement our communication skills. We do it without even being aware of it. The sounds that are most difficult to hear are the sounds that are most easily recognized on the lips. When we have a mask on, those subtle visual cues are taken away from us. Those same sounds are often the softer, higher pitched sound in speech. Sounds like "S", "T", "F" and 'Th" are blocked by our masks. The sound can't travel very far. Masks, combined with social distancing means fewer audible speech cues, resulting in more "GAPS" in conversation the brain now has to "FILL IN" with what it assumes is the missing sound. That process takes time.

TO HELP -

  • Have family and friends speak SLOWER not LOUDER. The slowed conversation allows the brain the time it needs to process the signal and fill in the gaps. LOUDER conversation can cause distortion for many people with hearing loss or those who are wearing hearing aids. LOUDER does not always equal BETTER.

  • We may all have to learn to communicate our emotions differently when wearing a mask. Masks block visual cues like a smile or a frown. Encourage people to use language to express emotion. Expand usual greeting like saying "Hi, I'm glad to meet you" instead of just saying "HI". Give clues about your emotion by giving a glimpse into your current emotion; "I'm frustrated at the moment", "I'm so excited about ... " this allows the listener to more easily identify words in your conversation that would support the underlying feelings, feelings that may not be visible because of a masked face.


  • Consider using a clear face mask or face shield. There are some great shields that have a protective barrier around the exterior of the shield, providing control of breath but giving great, unobstructed visual cues for lipreading or seeing expressions. Shields are a bit more cumbersome than just a mask but for people who work with hearing impaired colleagues, patients and customers it is a great alternative.

  • Use Aural Rehabilitation exercises to help improve the speed at which the brain can process sound. There are some web-based exercise programs like clear (www.clEARWorks4EARs.com) , LACE (www.neurotone.com) and Brain HQ (www.brainHQ.com) that improve aural processing and listening skills.

  • There are also some easy Memory training workbooks available. Memory is a big part of listening and understanding conversation. Improving memory and exercising the brain has benefits for signal processing - following conversation. I like The Memory Workbook by Dr. Douglas Mason.

  • Even the simple task of reading out loud for 15 minutes a day can help with listening skills, especially when using a hearing. Another easy exercise is to have someone read a book while you follow along by reading the text. Audible book works with Kindle to offer READ/LISTEN options.

  • If you struggle to hear television but don't have a hearing aid, consider using a chairside speaker. There are Bluetooth devices that can connect to a pair of headphones or a portable speaker that can bring the sound in closer to the ears. There are also personal amplifier systems like Williams Pocket Talker or even a Walker's Game Ear (watch your volumes though) that can be used improve conversational listening.

  • If you have hearing aids and are still struggling to hear conversation while masked, consider using a volume control or phone-based app to adjust the gains to a more comfortable listening level. You may also want to visit your Audiologist to have an adjustment made, making sure you are getting the maximum benefit from your hearing aids.
If you don't have a hearing aid but are struggling to hear, consider visiting AVA Hearing Center for an evaluation. Hearing aids come in a wide variety of technology levels, prices, shapes and features. AVA Hearing Center works with multiple manufacturers to give you choices.

Services We Provide at AVA Hearing Center

AVA Hearing Center - AVA Office Building

AVA Hearing Center at 5344 Plainfield N.E. is your trusted and complete hearing resource, where experienced, accredited, caring professionals provide the finest services and offer the world's best quality products. Here is a list of services we provide.

  • Diagnostic Hearing Assessment
  • Speech-in-Noise Performance Test
  • Ear Cleaning
  • Hearing Aid Sales and Service
  • Hearing Aid Benefit Assessment and Validation ANY manufacturer
  • Hearing Aid Repair
  • Tinnitus Assessment
  • Aural Rehabilitation
  • Hearing Conservation Education
  • Caption Phone Service
  • Custom Swim Plugs
  • Custom Musician Ear Plugs
Call or visit AVA today.

Dr. Karen Jacobs on WZZM TV-13

Watch Dr. Karen with WZZM TV-13's Catherine Behrendt as they discuss hearing loss, hearing aids, and better communication during Covid-19.

Try Before You Buy: At AVA, Try New Hearing Aids First

Flex:Trial by Unitron

AVA Hearing Center offers a Complimentary FLEX:TRIAL hearing aid opportunity. Call us today to learn more.

These specialized hearing aids are used to gather information about individual patients’ hearing needs. The hearing aids are fit on a 1-2 week trial and are programmed specifically for the individual. Patients get an opportunity to experience what it is like to wear hearing aids.

What is unique about the Flex:Trial is its ability to monitor the patient’s experience. The hearing aids are specially designed to gather REAL WORLD information about an individual’s acoustic lifestyle. The hearing aids collect data about how often a patient is in particular environments like Quiet, Soft conversation, speech in mild noise, speech in moderate noise, speech in loud noise, just noise, music, television, telephone. It monitors the hearing aid’s response to environments as well as patient changes like volume UP/DOWN, recording what the conditions where when those changes were being made.

At the end of the trial period, the audiologist and the patient get together to look at the results. That data helps identify which technology features are worth purchasing and which ones might not be necessary. This ensures that patients get what they need but don’t pay for what they don’t use. It helps answer questions like “Which hearing aids are best for me?” and “How much better could I do with more expensive technology?”

I Don’t Have Hearing Loss but My Significant Other Does.  How Do I Talk to Them About Getting Help?

It can certainly be difficult to talk with someone about their hearing loss. Many people are in denial about hearing loss because it has such a gradual onset that people don’t really notice how much change has occurred over time.

One way to discuss hearing loss is to suggest going together to have baseline testing. Hearing testing is easy, painless and inexpensive (often covered by insurance). At AVA Hearing we are here to provide information – not sell everyone a hearing aid. Sometimes it is easier to talk with a professional about hearing loss than it is to talk with a loved one. This non-sales centered appointment provides facts and non-medical treatment options if necessary.

Pointing out hearing loss can be a slippery slope. Find someone who has normal hearing aid have them set the television to a volume that is comfortable for them to listen. This will provide a volume number. Try to set the television at this volume for several programs and have your loved one gauge their own ease of listening. If they are struggling it may be a great time to mention that you have noticed other instances where they seem to be struggling with conversation.

Another method is to complete a Self-reported hearing loss questionnaire. It is sometimes interesting to both fill it out and compare results. You may notice the hearing loss much more than your significant other because you can see when they have miss communicated.

APHAB (Abbreviated Profile for Hearing Aid Benefit): Use the link below to download and complete the Questionnaire. Use this if you currently have hearing aids.


12 Reasons to Get a Hearing Test

Getting a hearing test does not always result in getting hearing aids. At AVA Hearing Center, we provide diagnostic hearing and communication assessments. We look for areas where communication is easy and which situations may be more problematic. We also look for underlying medical issues that may be affecting hearing, like diabetes, heart issues and medication use. Here are some common reasons to schedule a hearing test TODAY:

  • You are over 50 years old and have not had a baseline evaluation.
  • You are aware of hearing loss but have not had a recent evaluation.
  • You have Diabetes, High Blood Pressure or Cardiovascular Disease.
  • You have a family history of hearing loss.
  • You have a history of noise exposure.
  • You have tinnitus or ringing in the ears.
  • You have dizziness or balance problems.
  • Your ears feel full or congested.
  • Family/Friends complain that you say “WHAT?” often.
  • You find that you hear but can’t understand conversation.
  • You have noticed a change in your hearing or you have fluctuating hearing sensitivity.
  • You have used ototoxic medications like Lasik, Cisplatin (Chemotherapy), loop diuretics or high levels of Quinine or Salicylates.
Being pro-active about your hearing health is important to your overall level of health. Untreated or undiagnosed hearing loss has been linked to depression, premature cognitive aging equivalent to 9 years, memory loss and 34% greater risk of dementia. People with untreated hearing loss also have a greater incidence of falling, reduced safety due to unawareness of environment, lost income and social isolation. Knowledge about your hearing and processing capabilities can help you stay active longer and enjoy life more fully. Call us today for a hearing and listening assessment.

Three Reasons to Call AVA Hearing Center Today

1) AVA Hearing Center has a friendly, knowledgeable staff.

AVA employs 2 Doctors of Audiology who use “Best Practice” techniques and equipment to comprehensively assess, identify, treat and validate outcomes for our patients. We have 2 Hearing Technicians available for walk-in service 5 Days a week! Staff has experience with Insurance, Health Credit and Third Party Payers for hassle-free billing and financial resources.

2) Patient needs are priority #1 at AVA Hearing Center.

We recognize that every patient is different, with different needs and expectations. We address patients on an individual basis. We offer supplemental services like Aural Rehabilitation Therapy or Good Hearing Counseling in addition to state-of-the-art products from multiple manufacturers in order to provide patients with choices and options. AVA Hearing Center uses a Patient-Centered service model that provides transparent exchange knowledge with a NO-Pressure sales model. We want our patients to be in control and comfortable with the choices they make.

3) AVA Hearing Center is locally owned and operated.

Dr. Karen Jacobs established AVA Hearing Center in 1998 following 14 years in a medical clinical setting. Unlike many area Hearing Aid Companies - AVA Hearing does NOT take Manufacturer Financial Support which means hearing aid recommendations are motivated purely by the needs of the patient.