UZ Leuven-button for the hearing-impaired eases communication with face masks

11 May 2020

As the corona measures are being eased, everyone has to wear a face mask in the hospital and in various public places. This is a problem for the hearing-impaired who often rely on lip-reading and facial expressions to understand their conversational partner. UZ Leuven has developed a button indicating you’re hearing-impaired so that others can take this into consideration.

‘Clearly please, I'm hearing-impaired’. By wearing a button with this message, people with a loss of hearing can indicate to their care providers and other conversation partners that they have to express themselves clearly, especially when wearing a mouth mask. Everyone with a slight or severe loss of hearing coming to UZ Leuven can pick up such a button from the Gasthuisberg campus reception.

People with a latent hearing loss, which you would normally not notice, can now experience difficulties when your mouth and a large part of your face are covered by a mask.
prof. dr. Nicolas Verhaert

Professor Nicolas Verhaert, otolaryngologist and ear surgeon at UZ Leuven: “It is important that we don’t forget the group of the hearing-impared in these special situation. People with a latent loss of hearing, which you would not normally notice, can now experience difficulties when your mouth and a large part of your face are covered by a mask. With this button we want to provide an accessible aid to facilitate communication, both in the hospital and in public life. And we'd like to do this in a playful, non-stigmatising way.”

Volume, timbre and gestures

In order to make yourself understood for a hearing-impaired person with a face mask, it is especially important to speak slowly and clearly. In addition you can think about your timbre to get a message across. Professor Verhaert: “From our childhood onwards we learn how to deduct information from a person's timbre. For example, when someone says something in an angry way, we know that that person is angry without knowing what is being said. It also helps to support your message visually with e.g. daily gestures, and by avoiding background noise as much as possible.”

The last couple of weeks, the department for workwear in UZ Leuven has also been working on a face mask with a plastic screen for everyone dealing with hearing-impaired people: from speech therapists to ear surgeons and care workers on geriatric wards. The transparent mask makes lip-reading possible. At the moment, we are testing which type of plastic works best to minimise condensation of the plastic screen.

Prof. dr. Verhaert and speech therapist Ellen Boon show off the 'Clearly please'-button for the hearing-impaired and the transparent face mask they're working on together with the department for workwear. 

More about "Otorhinolaryngology, head and neck surgery"

Digital follow-up for first patients with hearing implants

29 September 2022
For the first time UZ Leuven doctors and audiologists are testing telemonitoring in patients that were given a cochlear implant for the treatment of their loss of hearing. A new app makes digital follow-up possible for patients. As a result they don't have to come to the hospital that often for check-ups.
More info
More about "Otorhinolaryngology, head and neck surgery"

Study sheds new light on cause of loss of smell in COVID-19

10 November 2021
Loss of smell is a common symptom of COVID-19. Flemish doctors have taken tissue samples of deceased COVID-19 patients and have discovered that the virus infects the supporting cells of the olfactory mucosa, but not the nerve cells with the odorant receptors. The olfactory bulb in the brain was also spared.
More info
More about "Hearing loss"

First Flemish patients receive invisible hearing implant

11 June 2019
The first patients recently received an ‘invisible’ hearing implant at UZ Leuven. Contrary to the hearing systems currently being used, this new system is fully inserted beneath the skin, enabling patients to also hear at night and giving them more freedom, for example, to engage in sports or to do their job.
More info
Last edit: 16 February 2021