COVID-19 is creating communication barriers for the deaf community

It’s hard to read lips or interpret signs when someone is wearing a mask — or when someone has a bad connection on Zoom. Lip reading, facial gestures and body language are essential to communication for many individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, but it has become more difficult for protective face masks and remote work and school to delay the spread of COVID-19.

Image Source : People who are deaf and hard of hearing have been cut off from community and communication during the COVID-19 pandemic.TODAY Illustration / Getty Images

Most deaf people say the community in their lives is an extremely important factor, and it is not always possible to be together right now. Gallaudet University, a school for deaf and hard of hearing students in Washington, D.C., has briefly moved to interactive learning, like many universities around the world. That means that many of its students are with their parents back home, and it has been a challenging return to the “hearing world” for others.

“During any family gathering, and not only dinner, it is very difficult to communicate with family and friends.”

“I am the only deaf child in the family. They don’t communicate with me much.”

Sara Khan

Especially in comparison to deaf students taking virtual classes with students and professors who do not share their primary language, while Gallaudet students are at an advantage, the lack of in-person togetherness also takes a toll. Although Zoom meetings and virtual hangouts are undeniably a vital part of pandemic life for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, technology is not always optimized.

In order to adapt to the new pandemic, students who are hearing impaired, along with others who take American Sign Language classes, have had to change their lives entirely. It is harder for those students who read facial expressions and lips to interact with their peers and professors with the new nationwide mask requirement requiring the wearing of masks. 28 million Americans, or 10 percent of the population, have a degree of hearing loss, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Of such people, about two million are considered deaf. This suggests that even with a hearing aid, they can not hear everyday sounds or even speech.

With communication being complicated, the present pandemic has altered the way people interact. They are more equipped to use gestures, body language, or even mobile phones to help communicate.

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