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  • Reverend James Squire

The Mask of Silence

Updated: Feb 12, 2021

There have been complaints about masks being a reduction of peoples’ personal freedom, being political, and being politically correct. However, let me tell you what a real mask problem looks like. Not enough people have thought about how the masks are a great problem for those who are deaf or hearing impaired.

I am not deaf but I am very hearing impaired. Some but not all people know this. For many years, I was one of those who constantly asked, “What did you say?” I was vain and didn’t want to get hearing aids. I was forced to get a hearing exam and purchase hearing aids. I remember the morning after I got them. I walked outside of our home to get the newspaper and I heard the birds singing loudly. I stopped and listened as this was the first time that I had heard that sound in a very long time. I just stood there and listened. I wanted to absorb it fully. When I told Vicki this, she just smiled.

Since I am hearing impaired, I struggle to hear high women’s voices, English accents, and people who don’t speak clearly. You learn that when you go to a crowded room such as a restaurant, you position yourself so that your back is against the wall. I can’t hear people who are talking to me from another room. When I take the hearing aids out, I can’t hear much at all so Vicki has to yell at me for me to understand what she is saying. Since Sadie the Wonder Dog is more tuned into emotions of people than most people, she runs quickly to us to see what is the matter. When you wear a mask and hearing aids, the aids get caught up in the mask when getting it off so one has to constantly be checking that the aids are not lost. There is one plus to hearing aids. The receivers are in the back of the aid which means I can hear people behind me better than others. My students still wonder how I could hear their off the record conversations behind me. My voice is muffled as well. Pre mask my students would always say, “We would recognize your voice anywhere. When we hear it, we feel safe.”

Now if you add a mask to all of this and you are deaf there is the additional issue is that you can’t read facial expressions or for the deaf, even worse, you can’t read lips. They are caught between hearing and safety from Covid-19. They and we have to be more in tune to body language including looking directly into peoples’ eyes which does not come naturally. What about the smile? Smiling or not smiling is one of the great ways that we communicate with one another. I know that there are masks with smiles on them, but since we aren’t happy all of the time, they can add to the confusion. Who wants to walk around looking like the movie character, the Joker?

Another way to help those who struggle with hearing is to ask questions that just have a yes or no answer.

I love the tv commercial that simply states, “Wearing a mask says a lot about you. Then the screen goes blank followed by the comment, “Not wearing a mask says a lot about you as well.”

If we are sensitive to the above as well being responsible to our neighbor, we will live out a phrase used by Martin Luther, founder of the Lutheran Church. We would become the Larva dei “the mask of God”.

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