We are almost two years into the pandemic and still hundreds of millions of Americans are putting on a mask to head out into public. Widespread mask-wearing has caused significant problems for hearing aid wearers around the world, leading to discomfort, elaborate efforts to put on and take off masks, and even lost hearing aids.
Over the last year, I’ve seen an increasing conversation about these challenges, and in this article, I hope to share some tips, tricks, and ideas that might help my fellow hearing aid wearers.
First, some context
If you aren’t a hearing aid wearer or don’t wear behind the ear hearing aids, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. Simply put, the straps used on most masks go directly behind the ear, where your hearing aid also rests. Each time you put on, adjust, or take off your mask, you risk flinging your hearing aid off and potentially losing it or at least causing the discomfort of disrupting its position. This challenge only grows for those who also wear glasses.
A few recent tweets illustrate this widespread challenge.
Tips for Hearing Aid Wearers
Masks are clearly presenting a challenge to those who wear hearing aids and it’s unlikely that the need for masks will go away any time soon, so what can be done?
#1 Behind the Head Straps
This option seems to be the most straightforward and is most widely suggested by hearing aid wearers. Behind-the-head masks reduce strain on your ears and keep your mask tight across your face. The downsides are that you’ll have to bring your mask with you vs. using ones freely available in some public locations. Many people take time to sew these masks at home, but I’ve also found several highly-rated and affordable hearing aid friendly options for sale online. Some of my favorites below:
Hearing Aid Friendly Masks That Tie Behind The Head
USA Made - Amazon $26.99
Affordable Multipack - Amazon $24.99 (5ct)
Single Strap - Amazon $13.99
Neck Gator Style - Amazon $13.99 for a 6 Pack
Outdoor Performance - Amazon $14.99
Option #2 Strap Extenders
Mask extenders are another great option if you want the flexibility to use any mask at any time. These are especially helpful if you are in environments where you can’t always use your own mask. The two options pictured here are just a couple of the several different designs available on Amazon and Etsy. Many people have also created DIY versions with a strip of cloth and two buttons. A couple of well reviewed options for purchase below:
Mask Extender Strap - Amazon Prime $4.99 (10ct)
Mask Halo - Amazon $12.99
Option #3 DIY Creativity
If you’re looking for an excuse to show off your personality or get into a new DIY project, you’ll find lots of inspiration on Pinterest and Etsy. I’ve included some ideas to start you off here, but the options are truly limitless. I’ve linked the images below if you’d like to purchase one of these options directly from the creator.
It’s worth noting the image of the matching headband and mask. This approach can be convenient for hearing aid wearers as it uses a button to connect your mask to a headband instead of your ears.
If you are looking for more advice on wearing hearing aids with a mask, you might also enjoy this video from Starkey. The video below includes a visual guide and tips on what to do if you lose your hearing aid due to a mask entanglement.