New Report Uncovers the Impacts of COVID-19 On Communication Accessibility for Adults with Hearing Loss

Survey respondents indicated the need for better communication access, including through the use of captioning across all live and recorded sources 
Click here to watch this announcement in ASL
(For Immediate Release) Monday August 23 2021 –The Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (CHHA), University of British Columbia (UBC), and Wavefront Centre for Communication Accessibility release a report on findings from a recent survey released to Canadians on the Impacts of COVID-19 on Communication Accessibility for Adults with Hearing Loss. Insights from close to 700 responses summarize the key findings, such as the demand for universal captioning, the impacts of masks, ways to promote clearer communication, and the accessibility of obtaining information from the government.
“We are grateful to all the individuals who took the time to complete the survey and who shared their experience and perspectives with us about the impacts of the pandemic to their day-to-day lives,” says Christopher Sutton, Chief Executive Officer, Wavefront Centre. “The results from this report provide us with a foundation to better understand the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our communities and to ensure that moving forward, we can address these challenges as we continue to manage COVID-19 throughout the recovery phase and beyond.”
“We will continue to raise awareness and take action, appealing to all levels of government, corporations and organizations when it comes to communication accessibility. The pandemic heightens specific concerns and challenges that do need to be addressed now and post COVID-19,” says Lee Pigeau, National Executive Director CHHA. “Bridging the gap on communications barriers will ensure people who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing are provided equitable access at all times especially during a crisis or other emergencies.”
The principal investigators, Dr. Brenda Poon, Wavefront Centre Senior Research Fellow and Assistant Professor at UBC, and Dr. Lorienne Jenstad, Associate Professor at UBC School of Audiology and Speech Sciences, shared the preliminary findings of the survey on a webinar in May 2021.
“The Deaf and Hard of Hearing respondents reported negative impacts of COVID-19 on many aspects of their lives: employment, social connections, grocery shopping, access to medical care, among others. While many people found communication difficult with face masks and plexiglass barriers, this population was perhaps harder hit because these safety measures interfere with facial cues and clear speech signals.” explains Dr. Poon. “We sense there may be a tension between following safety needs and providing better communication, and, unfortunately, these aren’t always compatible.” Dr. Jenstad added.
The survey on the Impacts of COVID-19 on Communication Accessibility for Adults with Hearing Loss was designed to collect information on the impact the pandemic has had on the daily lives of people who experience hearing loss and deafness, with particular focus on communication accessibility and access to information. Click here to access the full report. A video recording of our webinar outlining selected survey results is available.
Click here to watch the recording of this webinar.
Key findings in the report:
  • More than 80% of individuals with hearing loss found it difficult to understand others with face masks
  • 60% of individuals reported that their mental health has been negatively affected as a result of the pandemic
  • At least one-quarter of individuals with higher severity of hearing loss were unable to obtain hearing health services due to COVID-19 restrictions
  • Only 16% of respondents reported obtaining hearing or hearing aid services remotely from a specialist such as an audiologist or hearing instrument practitioner.
  • Over 60% of respondents reported difficulty in understanding others who are behind plexiglass barriers.
  • At least 60% of respondents indicated that having captioning available would help improve communication with others in video calls and at virtual events
About Wavefront Centre for Communication Accessibility
Established in 1956, Wavefront Centre for Communication Accessibility is a BC based, charitable non-profit organization that operates as a social enterprise. Wavefront Centre delivers innovative services in Audiology and Communication Devices, Counselling, Seniors Outreach, and Accessible Communication Services that assist people who are Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing achieve full communication accessibility.
About the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association
The Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (CHHA) was established in 1982 and is Canada’s leading consumer advocacy organization representing the needs of the nearly 4-million people living with hearing loss. With a network across Canada, CHHA works cooperatively with hearing loss professionals, service providers, government and provides life-enhancing information, support, and advocacy to ensure people with hearing loss are able to overcome barriers in all aspects of their lives.
Media Contacts: For interviews or additional information
Janee Yang
Communications Assistant, Wavefront Centre for Communication Accessibility
604-736-7391 ext 412
Gordana Mosher Manager, Accessibility Projects & Communications
Canadian Hard of Hearing Association
613.526.1584 ext.103 Mobile 905-572-3923

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