The new rules on wearing face coverings in Scotland are designed to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). However, we know many people with a hearing loss rely on facial expressions and lipreading to communicate. In this article we outline the regulations as they apply to those with a hearing loss and make some suggestions to help make communication easier while wearing a face covering. We hope you find it useful.
Locations where face coverings must be worn
In Scotland, most people aged 5 and over are now required by law to wear a face covering in many settings, including:
- restaurants, bars and other hospitality settings (unless seated at a table)
- shops and supermarkets
- public transport
- taxis or private hire vehicles
- railway and bus stations and airports
- indoor fitness studios, gyms, swimming pool or other leisure centres
- banks and post offices
- places of worship
- community centres
These rules also apply to staff, unless:
- they can maintain a 2-metre distance from the public, or
- they are physically separated – for example, by clear partitions
Read the full Scottish guidance on face coverings for Scotland on the Scottish Government website.
Wearing a face covering with hearing aids
The government describes a face covering as something that safely covers the nose and mouth. You can buy reusable or single-use face coverings, which usually have elastic straps that fit behind the ears. You may also use a scarf, bandana, religious garment or hand-made cloth covering, but these must securely fit round the side of your face.
Tips for successfully wearing a mask with a hearing aid
Try to wear face coverings which are tied around your head instead of looping around your ears. By tying the face covering around the head you avoid the loops interfering with your hearing aid.
If you have a mask that has elastic straps, try a mask extender. Extenders can be used to link the mask straps at the back of your head, rather than having the straps sit behind your ears. These extenders can be easily bought online or you could make your own, or simply loop a long thin piece of string or material through the mask loops and tie around the back of your head.
We know many of you are finding wearing face covering increases the risk of loosing your hearing aids. If you are concerned about losing your hearing aids you can buy safety lines and retention cord just search online.
Face coverings exemptions
The government guidance says you don’t have to wear a face covering if you have a legitimate reason not to these include:
- if you are unable to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability.
- If you find you cannot wear your hearing aids securely with a face covering, or if wearing a face covering interferes with your hearing aids this counts as a legitimate reason for not wearing one.
- Communicating with those who rely on facial expressions and lip reading
- If you are providing assistance of some kind to a person who uses facial expression or lip reading to communicate
Please note: These exemptions also apply to staff in the work place and cover even those who have to wear a covering at work by law.
Exemption cards and badges
The government website includes exemption badges and cards you can print or save to your mobile phone. You don’t have to use them but you may feel more comfortable carrying something explaining your exemption from wearing a face covering. You can find the information here
It’s a personal choice to carry an exemption badge or card. It’s not required by law but as the rules regarding exemption from face coverings are not widely understood by the general public carrying a card can protect you from misunderstandings.