A few years ago, we rarely talked about “social distancing” or “exposures”, but these phrases have become a regular part of our vocabularies. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a new set of shared realities for people across every region, age, and career path. Wearing a mask has been ingrained in the daily routine of most Americans since early 2020. Senior living communities, in most cases, have been forced to be especially rigorous with mask requirements, given the high-risk populations residing there. Staff, visitors, and, of course, residents are wearing masks for many group activities outside of their rooms ultimately limiting hearing in senior living communities.

While just a minor annoyance for some, masks represent a significant obstacle for the hearing impaired. Residents that rely on lipreading are robbed of valuable communication cues. Masks naturally muffle, garble, or block speech, which sometimes creates communication gaps for those that already have difficulty hearing. Depending on the material, masks reduce the volume of speech by4 to 12 decibels.

Given that about 70% of people over the age of 70 have some sort of hearing loss, masking has brought forth new challenges for everyone involved in senior living communities. New, easy-to-use senior living technology solutions are helping community leaders adapt.

Delivering quality care is more difficult with mask wearing

85% of respondents in a survey from the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reported that since the start of the pandemic, a patient’s hearing impairment has either moderately or extremely impacted the quality of care provided. That figure rose sharply from pre-pandemic levels of less than 50%.

Communication is paramount for a harmonious relationship between staff, residents and visitors. Masks help keep everyone safe from COVID, but they’re producing another pandemic: a lack of connection and clarity within communities.

Related: 5 resident engagement technologies to enhance 1-on-1 interactions

Technology tips to communicate with residents (while wearing masks)

It’s not all doom and gloom! Innovative senior living professionals are finding resourceful ways to leverage technology to improve communication within their communities. Here are three strategies to consider to improve hearing in Senior Living Communities:

Lean into telehealth

Virtual visits with doctors and health professionals are much more commonplace since the start of the pandemic. Hearing-impaired residents are able to hear better, and lipread, when they can see their doctor without a mask, from the comfort of their room.

Not every appointment can be done virtually, of course, but virtual visits are a great solution for routine check-ups.

Consider speech-to-text technology

Any smartphone can provide an effective bridge for hearing-impaired residents. On an iPhone, staff can use the speech-to-text button to automatically transcribe their words in the Notes app. If you’re looking for a more robust option, consider tools such as Otter.ai, Google Live Transcribe or Interact-Streamer.

Implement an advanced listening system

Providing the best experience for your residents sometimes involves innovating from the tools you normally use. An advanced listening system like Eversound, which connects up to 120 wireless headphones at distances up to 300 feet, can unlock new opportunities for engagement and socialization in your community.

How Eversound can improve hearing in senior living communities despite mask requirements

Eversound’s wireless group listening systems, designed for use in senior living communities, enhance seniors’ ability to hear and focus. Our technology allows for increased engagement in one-on-one interactions, and enables safe, socially-distanced group programs with clear communications.

Eversound headphones allow simultaneous broadcasting of voice and audio, which facilitates better comprehension by overcoming visual and auditory distortion caused by mask usage.

Get in touch to learn how Eversound can help you increase engagement and socialization when mask wearing makes it difficult for residents, visitors, and staff to connect.