In the hospital, COVID-19 creates unique challenges for those with hearing loss. COVID-19 patients are separated from other other patients into “respiratory isolation.” This means that masks and noisy air purifiers are widely used. Masks that muffle the voice and prevent lipreading. Unlike other medical settings, masks will not be lowered so that you can lipread. Masks are being rationed, so doctors and nurses are limited when they can enter a room. This disrupts normal methods of using communication strategies such as video remote interpreting and even personal speech recognition apps.
Normally, hospitals are able to provide accommodations. However, some are overwhelmed and their ability to provide accommodations may be limited.
Clear masks are useful in any situation where a regular surgical mask or a homemade mask is used. It is not appropriate for use in the hospital COVID-19 setting. They are a reasonable accommodation for hearing loss.
Clear masks do not have the same level of filtration that N95 masks provide. Thus, they do not protect healthcare workers from catching COVID-19. The only clear mask solution that we have used and recommend is the Communicator Mask from SafeNclear (we have no financial connection). Other commercial solutions such as The Clear Mask is currently on backorder and we have not evaluated its product.
Apps that provide captions can be classified into two categories:
Human based stenographers convert phone calls to captions for hard of hearing users. It is illegal to use these apps as interpreter. In other words, these apps cannot be used in the same room as another speaker. Examples include InnoCaption and Hamilton CapTel.
Automatic speech recognition (ASR) apps automatically convert speech to text. Examples of these apps are Google LiveTranscribe (Android), Otter (Android, iOS), and Ava (Android/iOS).
Make sure that your healthcare providers and advocates know your login and passwords.
The speaker is in the same room as you, and you hare having difficulty hearing because of distance or a mask.
Use an ASR app listed above (e.g. Google Live Transcribe or Otter).
Provider holds a portable device under their chin, facing out so you can read the captions. See Dr. Tina Childress demonstrate this in the video right.
Provider talks into your portable device from a slight distance while you're holding it (see second video). Wired or wireless lavalier microphones can increase accuracy with social distancing. Wired mics are easier and less prone to being lost in the hospital.
Communicating when the speaker is outside the room. Treat this as a phone call.