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Partially deaf journalist opens up on impact of face masks on life

Richard WhitehouseA journalist who is partially deaf has opened up on the impact the use of face masks is having on his everyday life.

Cornwall Live and BBC local democracy reporter Richard Whitehouse has spoken out about the new law on face coverings has affected him.

Richard, pictured, is entirely deaf in one ear and relies on a hearing aid in the other, while he often reads lips in order to understand people.

He has also begun wearing a snood in shops because the elasticated loops on many masks risk dislodging his hearing aid.

In a first-person piece for Cornwall Live, Richard wrote: “When I have had to ask people to repeat things they have said it is usually greeted with a chuckle, especially when it takes four goes, but occasionally it can be met with an exasperated sigh which makes you feel like you are an annoyance they could do without.

“This isn’t a problem which cannot be overcome though and there have been some interesting solutions.

“Some have called for people to wear masks with clear plastic ‘windows’ over their mouths to help those who rely on lip reading. Others have resorted to mobile phone apps which will translate speech into text which can also help.

“Hearing loss is an invisible disability – although some people do wear badges or lanyards which will explain and warn people in advance.

“If you do have someone asking you to repeat yourself several times please try to be patient – remember some of us rely on more than our ears to communicate.”

Richard told HTFP he had been “delighted” with the response to the piece.

He said: “So many people have been in touch to say they didn’t realise that this was an issue and that it had helped them to understand. I was invited onto BBC Radio Cornwall and spoke to Laurence Reed about it and he also said that it was something that he was not aware of.

“I am generally reluctant to speak about my hearing loss – it is something that impacts my everyday life but I have never found it to be a hindrance when it comes to my work.

“However when I was asked to write a first-person piece about my experiences I thought that it was a good opportunity to make people more aware of the issue and how people who are deaf or have a hearing loss are affected by the use of face coverings.”

Richard added he “wanted people to have patience with those of us who do use lip reading”.

He said: “For me, lip reading is something that I have always done subconsciously but with the introduction of mandatory face coverings in some situations I have realised that I probably do rely on more than I thought.

“I am pleased that the piece has been shared so many times on social media and that people have reacted so positively to it.

“Sometimes there is a fear that things like hearing loss can be seen as a weakness, hence the reluctance to speak publicly about it. I am glad that in this instance I have been able to use it as a positive.”