Audiologist makes clear mask so hearing loss patients can still read her lips and see her smiles

In a time where everything's uncertain, face masks aren't making things any easier for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Angie Lederman is an audiologist with her own private practice Clinton Township called Hear Now. Audiologists take care of people with hearing loss, which includes selling hearing aids and treating people with tinnitus, or ringing in the ears.

As the COVID-19 pandemic began to impact Metro Detroit, Angie decided to close to practice even before they were required to.

“Hearing is more prevalent in older people so a big group of our patients are older people -- so as things started coming out, we just thought that it was a little more responsible to keep that population at home,” she said.

But they’re still open for emergencies. That means working while wearing a face mask, which can be difficult for those with hearing loss.

“We get so many cues from lip-reading, from facial expressions, and when you have a mask on, all of that is taken away,” Angie said.

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So Angie wanted to wear special masks when working with her patients. Sewed together by her mother-in-law, they have a piece of plastic in front of her mouth so they can still read her lips and see her smile.

“A couple of emergency patients have said wow, that’s really a thoughtful idea, that’s great, and it’s honestly something you never would have thought about,” she said.

A few of those emergencies have involved people suddenly unable to hear as their devices quit working. Angie said not being able to hear is hard by itself,

“I had a gentleman call me and his hearing aid had stopped, and he said I live alone, I can’t hear the news reports -- that’s very scary,” she said.

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Another emergency included a nurse whose hearing aid quit on her -- and she had a shift that night. So they hopped in the car and took a hearing aid right to her house.

“She was in tears. She said, I don’t know how I would’ve worked -- not hearing my patients, not hearing my bosses,” she said.

“We know that we’re not life-essential but we are extremely important communication and hearing especially during this time is necessary.”

Sometimes when we head out to grab essentials, things can seem a little uneasy with everyone’s smiles covered by masks. 

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“I’ve taken to wearing it when I grocery shop, anywhere I go," Angie said. "People are just like wow that’s really cool, I haven’t seen that. I just felt much more comfortable smiling and I thought, even if a smile can brighten somebody’s day right now -- just do it.”

May is Better Speech and Hearing Month, and while some of her special plans to spread awareness have been put on hold, Angie hopes those with hearing loss just know: “There is treatment. There is help. There are wonderful people out there that can help you hear.”

To learn more about Angie’s practice Hear Now, click here.


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