Living with an Impairment During COVID-19 – A Personal Perspective

Back in March 2020 when we first started hearing on the news about COVID-19 I did not fully grasp the full impact that it would have on so many lives, including my own. I was one of the lucky ones who still had a job, and I was already set up to work from home. I knew that it would force me to make some changes in my lifestyle, but I thought that I would be able to easily adjust to the new reality. However, as time went on, I found that this was going to be much more of a struggle then I ever imagined.

Given that my widowed mother lives with me, I designated myself as the one to do all of the shopping, etc. Other than standing in lines, wearing a mask and social distancing, I thought everything would be fine. However, even though I tried to remain positive and patient while out, I found myself becoming exceedingly stressed by the time I returned home. I could not understand why after being out for a few hours I would be so frazzled and totally exhausted for the rest of the day. This made me start to wonder what really was going on and questioning myself. Was I just overreacting to the new reality? Was I unable to adjust to change? Was I losing my mind?

After about two months of experiencing this personal struggle I finally realized what was really going on. I never stopped to consider that the reason for most of the stress was related to my hearing impairment. Due to an inherited medical condition I am unable to hear certain tones, have ringing in my ears and cannot benefit from a hearing aid. Before COVID-19 it was not as big of an issue as I could read a person’s lips to fills in the parts of the conversation I might not have heard. However, what I did not realize was how much I relied on reading lips. With new world of COVID-19, when I would go out most people were wearing face masks, which meant I was no longer able to read their lips. Also, having to talk to someone through plexiglass is a struggle, even for those who can hear normally.

Once I realized what was really going on, I immediately felt some relief in the fact that I was not overreacting or losing my mind. I am now very upfront about my hearing impairment with the people I interact with and have found that most are accommodating. They have started to slow down and are more patient with me.

In doing further research into this issue and was able to find some helpful tips for interacting with persons who are hearing impaired:

  • Get the persons attention by gesturing to them

  • Consider wearing a face mask that has a clear window, so it is easier to read your lips

  • Use clear and concise signage (consider using diagrams for those unable to read or don’t speak English/French)

  • Keep background noises to a minimum

  • Use a pen and paper if you are struggling

It is important to bear in mind that the person with the impairment is not trying to be difficult and that they are struggling to exist in this new reality. So be patient, be kind and stay safe!

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