Masks, Lips, Deaf, Oh My!

I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since I’ve posted. At first, it was just general busy things, some health issues, the holidays, catching up on things – the usual. But then in early February, we started hearing about a virus that was scaring people. In the early days, like most people, we didn’t think it would affect us, so we went about our business – until mid February. Not a long time to process everything, but we went into protective mode pretty quickly.

I don’t have to tell you the story of Covid, I’m sure, and I don’t really want to write about it – enough people are doing that. We all know how bad things are and I always try to be uplifting and optimistic. But I would like to share my experience as a deaf person in a pandemic, because Covid has done what all these years of having no hearing has not been able to do to me. Covid has made me feel deaf and often helpless.

I used to be able to cope quite well by reading lips, sometimes with a little help, but I functioned well. Many people were surprised to hear I’m deaf. But now that my only way to know what people are saying has been taken away, it’s become a challenge when I do have to go out, though I rarely go anywhere. February was the last time we were out with friends, in a restaurant, at the theater, had my hair done, all the usual things people take for granted.

For the last nine or so months, we’ve stayed home (except for a few medical emergencies), we follow all the rules, we’re as careful as can be, and we take this very seriously. We’re high risk, not just from being seniors, but from having pre-existing conditions, and living in hot spots. The border has been closed for months and Toronto numbers are going up, not down, so we’re not going anywhere we absolutely don’t have to.

We’re actually ok with it, but like many things, we miss the freedom of choice. Through no fault of our own, we’re in a position where ‘out there’ is dangerous to us and we feel like we’re living in a disaster movie. During the summer, we started taking our dogs out for walks very late at night so there was less chance of running across people. (Turns out masks are very good for keeping bugs from flying into one’s nose or mouth – an unexpected benefit for me.) We took every safety precaution and walked over a mile every night the weather allowed. But where in the old days, if we’d seen a neighbor, we’d stop and chat, smile, be welcoming, now we’d (or they, or both) would cross the street, keep as much distance as possible, and if there were any smiles, no one could see them under the masks.

Let me stop a second to make this clear – I am not in any way suggesting not wearing a mask. In fact, I beg everyone to please wear a mask. Masks are the only thing that stops Covid from spreading. I’m sure you know the rules and the drill. Please, please, do the right thing.

But those wonderful, tiny little weapons against the virus have stopped me from being able to read lips. I’m now often struggling in this new world where mouths must be covered. And with DHH (Dear/Darling Handsome Hubby) wearing a mask too, he can’t help me the way he used to. He needs to keep the mask on around other people too. So without his help, I have to find a way to communicate on my own. And it’s hard to be the one to need people to be patient – we’re all tense and frazzled when we have to be in contact with other people.

So how do I manage? For an appointment in the hospital, one nurse wrote everything down. For some other appointments, the doctors and nurses lowered the masks and just used face shields, but kept a distance. There’s been a lot of pointing to papers and gestures. And sometimes no matter how hard we tried, I just didn’t get it. And then I realized, I have just the thing to make it easier for everyone. My phone! And once again, my love of technology comes to my rescue.

I can open ‘notes’ (for example) in my iPhone and they can speak at my phone and it will type everything they say for me. I can do it with some other apps too. Anything you can use for dictation will hear them through the mask and type their words. It’s not perfect, but it helps so very much. And these days, we need all the help we can get.

Stay well and safe, everyone. I’ll be back to write more when I can.

And special note to the spammers. Your comments need approval and I never let them through. I just report them. So please don’t bother. You can’t spread that stuff here – I’m wearing a mask. 🙂