How to communicate better when wearing a mask

Wearing a mask and a face shield can make it very hard to understand what we say, especially for people who may have a hearing loss or cognitive impairment.

This can cause our patients to be easily confused and not understand what is happening to them.

We can’t change what we need to wear to protect ourselves and our patients – but we can change what we do to support these people in our care.

Before you start to talk

  • Understand if your patient has any issues with hearing, communication or cognition.
  • Make sure your patient knows you are there: a gentle arm touch or pat on the hand, announcing yourself clearly, or a big and obvious wave.
  • Gain their eye contact and attention before you start talking.
  • Turn off the TV and limit any visual distractions.
  • Be face level and at eye-to-eye.
  • Check if they have hearing aids, are wearing them and they are turned on.
  • Bring in paper and a thick pen or texta, or other resources you may need to support conversation.

If someone is having trouble understanding you

  • Speak a little slower and pause between sentences.
  • Don’t yell or shout.
  • Use gestures to reinforce what you’re saying, or demonstrate what you want them to do.
  • Write down key messages.
  • Check your patient understands by asking them to repeat back their understanding of what has been said.
  • Use assisted communicative tools as required – ask your ward speech pathologist for more information.
  • Use eyes/eyebrows and other body language to emphasise points.

Hearing and communication support tools

The following resources are beneficial when communicating with those whom have a hearing loss or cognitive/communicative changes.

It is suggested that you collate these resources and store them centrally in the ward for all employees to “grab and go” as required. Infection control processes should be followed at all times.

  • Plain paper
  • Thick black Texta Pens
  • Whiteboards
  • Whiteboard pens
  • Troubleshooting for Hearing Aids available here (print multiple copies as they are single patient use)
  • Print and laminate the instructions to download “Speech to Text Apps” to personal device or ward iPad or WOWS available here

If you require further support or troubleshooting with clients, please contact your ward Speech Pathologist.

Speech to text app

The “Speech to text” app that is recommended is Cardzilla.

Cardzilla is available on iTunes and Google play stores.

It is recommended to use because:

  • It transcribes speech to text and displays in LARGE PRINT
  • Cards are saved for future use, which is particularly useful for frequent questions we ask our clients
  • It is free to download and easy to use.

Resources

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Clinical stories: The impact of masks on successful communication

Case studies and stories about the impact of face masks on communication.

Download

Communicating with masks poster

A poster with tips and advice about how you can better communicate when wearing a face mask.

Download

Communicating with masks video presentation

A video presentation with tips and advice from a Speech Pathologist about how you can better communicate when wearing a face mask.

Watch video

Hearing Aid Troubleshooting

A factsheet listing common faults with hearing aids, their causes and solutions.

Download

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