Struggling to Wear a Mask and Hearing Aids? Here’s Help!

When NYC resident Gregory Scott started to wear a mask over his behind-the-ear hearing aids during the COVID-19 pandemic, he ran into a major problem. The straps on the mask were destroying his hearing aids’ tubing. “I had to visit an audiologist to fix my hearing aids because of the constant pull of the straps on them,” said Scott, founder of the Soundprint app, which helps people find quiet spots to communicate.

Scott is not alone in facing this challenge. Masks can sometimes make hearing aids uncomfortable to wear, increase the risk that they’ll fall out, and impact the efficiency of the devices. People who wear them during this global health crisis must balance two essential needs: protecting themselves from the new coronavirus and being able to hear.

Here are some tips for smoothing the situation. This advice is primarily for people who wear behind-the-ear hearing aids, though many of these ideas can make masks more comfortable for all.

Try the Flip Trick

If you are wearing a mask and need to have a quick conversation, a simple hack is to flip up the main body of your hearing aids, so they are adjacent to your ear rather than resting behind the ear. Scott uses this method to avoid fiddling with the tubing “which can mess up how you're receiving the sound.” After Scott is finished talking, he simply returns the hearing aid to its original position. This trick works especially well for those with custom earmolds that are firmly fitted in the ear.

If you’re wearing behind-the-ear hearing aids without earmolds, flipping the hearing aid body off your ear might cause you to lose the hearing aid altogether, so instead, you might want to slowly lifting your mask strap from the front to the back — as shown in the video below.

"How To Remove a Mask While Wearing a Hearing Aid" via Wavefront Centre for Communication Accessibility

Wear a Mask with Adjustable Straps

David Halbout, founder of textile business French Fix LLC, and co-designer Nathalie d’Idris love solving problems. When they heard that masks were interfering with their friends' children's hearing aids, the duo set out to find a solution. New Jersey-based D’Idris told Hearing Tracker that this conversation led her to create masks with adjustable straps. These masks, which solve the problem, are available on the French Fix LLC’s Etsy for $19.99 each.

In an interview with Hearing Tracker, Halbout explained that these masks were designed to improve accessibility: “It's important for everybody to have a proper mask and be able to continue to live” a normal life. Halbout and d’Idris started to make their layered masks, which have a filter pocket, at the beginning of the pandemic to donate to frontline workers, which they continue to do.

Extend the Straps

Another solution for this dilemma is to buy or make mask extenders. When attached to the elastic loops of your protective face covering, extenders allow mask straps to be wrapped either under the ear or further over it.

Melissa Levy, who lives in New York, started to crochet mask extenders, donating them to frontline workers as well as selling them. “I love to crochet and enjoy turning my hobby into something that's beneficial for others,” Levy said. Inspiration struck, she told Hearing Tracker, when she whipped up a pair for her husband’s uncle who wears hearing aids, and he found them to be very helpful. With her daughters Ariana and Haley, Levy has been making and selling mask extenders in their community and through audiologist offices.

Crochet mask extenders

Crochet mask extenders made by Melissa Levy and her daughters in New York.

If you are interested in purchasing extenders, which are available in more than 30 colors and cost $1.50 per pair plus $3 for shipping, email or text 516-652-4024.

Pair up Your Hearing Aids and Eyeglasses

For those who wear both hearing aids and glasses, a mask can be especially problematic. Keep your hearing devices from falling out with a rubber-band fix. In this video by Marin Hearing Center in California, audiologist Dr. Andy Valla shows how to easily secure the hearing aids’ tube to the glasses with a rubber band. Then, if your mask threatens to dislodge your hearing aids, the bands prevent them from tumbling to the floor.

Dr. Andy Valla of Marin Hearing Center shows you how to attach your hearing aid to your glasses with a rubber band. Closed captions are available on this video. If you are using a mobile phone, please enable captions clicking on the gear icon.

Slow Down

Members of Hearing Tracker’s forum shared their tips as well, and one person emphasized the importance of taking “the mask off very carefully and making sure the aids are properly in the ear afterward.” While it’s hard to take a moment and be mindful about doing this, it’s a habit worth learning. As a wearer of hearing aids, I have found this a very helpful step when removing or changing my mask.

This new normal of wearing masks with hearing aids is a challenging one, but it looks as if it is here for a while. By trying the suggestions above, you’re likely to come up with a solution that solves the issue for you.