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Could hearing aids help reduce the spread of COVID-19?

Respiratory and speech droplets generated by asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 are now thought to be one of the primary ways the virus is spreading.

A recent study by the NIH showed that loud speech (85 dB) can emit thousands of oral fluid droplets per second. Additionally, these droplets can remain in the air in a stagnant space from 8 to 14 minutes. Most people typically talk at levels of 70 dB so it is hard to know whether softer speaking levels may generate less droplets. However, this study is pertinent to our patients with hearing loss and their family members, as we know that when someone with hearing loss is not wearing hearing aids, they tend to talk louder than normal. Furthermore, when it is apparent that someone is having hearing difficulties, the natural response is to move closer to one another, further increasing likelihood of coming into direct contact with speech droplets.

What’s promising is that a study published in the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research this year showed that when someone with a hearing loss wore hearing aids, their communication partners used less vocal effort when talking with them than when the person with hearing loss was not wearing hearing aids. It could be possible that reduced vocal effort may reduce how much speech droplets are released into the air.

Based on these two studies, it seems that increased vocal effort, louder speech, and increased proximity to one another could potentially increase the likelihood of coming into contact with speech droplets that may contain the novel coronavirus from asymptomatic carriers. Additionally, treating hearing loss with hearing aids could reduce these factors and potentially reduce transmission of the virus.

Are you experiencing communication difficulties? Don’t wait. Our office is taking all precautions to keep you safe during an office visit. Please call today for a complimentary virtual or in-person hearing consultation.

(352) 505-6766