About masks: freedom, choice, and hearing loss


If you were given the option to pay taxes, would you?

There are many places around the globe that are not enforcing people to wear face masks in public, letting the individuals make their own decisions. The Belgian government, for instance, has made this statement (thanks Paul for the link), but so has our Premier (province of Ontario, Canada).

Despite the provincial statement for voluntary compliance, certain stores in my vicinity have enforced mask wearing for customers. No masks, no entry to the store.

Longo’s, a Italian family owned grocery store, says this on their website:

• All Team Members are required to wear face coverings and/or shields.
• Guests are required to wear a mask or face covering while in the store. We encourage you to bring your own face covering and appreciate seeing all the different versions many of our Guests have made at home including scarves, bandanas, and those made from t-shirts. Please ensure that your face covering covers your mouth and nose. If you don’t have a face covering, we provide single-use masks at our entrances for $1, payable at checkout, with net proceeds donated to the local food bank.

Whole Foods, which I have visited with my mom a couple of weeks ago, hands out disposable masks at the entrance which you are required to wear while inside the store.

The two or three essential stores I frequent most (Farm Boy, Shoppers Drug Mart, independent fruit and vegetable store) don’t make face coverings compulsory (yet). I always have my mask with me anyway, and typically wear it. Having said that, I tend to go to the stores when they’re relatively empty. I have not been in an environment anywhere, indoors or out, that had any sort of crowds.

In the past week, Toronto opened up a bit more. I visited a couple of non-essential stores to purchase some not-as-essential-as-food items (clothes, supplements, crafting material for the child). I wore my mask to Winners, Dollarama, and the Healthy Planet even though there was no enforcement (but plenty of encouragement).

So, the question is, how do I feel about enforced face coverings?

I will do it. I don’t have a problem following this recommendation. I don’t feel threatened that my individuality, my personal freedom or anything else has been attacked. I really don’t see what the big deal is. If it prevents the spread of an airway transmitted virus to other, more vulnerable people than me, then I’ll put on a mask.

Even though wearing a mask, and being around people who wear masks, isolates me even more than I already am.

I have mentioned this before, that I suffer from hearing loss. I had this childhood illness and it caused me to progressively lose some of my hearing over the decades. This has affected my social abilities and made me more introverted than I really want to be.

Partly, this is a good thing with recent Covid events; socializing in crowds is not allowed, recommended or encouraged in order to keep the coronavirus from spreading. I don’t like crowds and noisy environments anyway, so I don’t have a problem with this ‘ruling’.

Having said that, I am feeling even more cut off than before. If I wear a mask, and have to communicate with a mask wearing person, I feel a heightened sense of anxiety.  What if I can’t make out what they’re saying to me?

I bet many people are in this same situation, especially the elderly who are already challenged with deteriorating hearing.

But here’s something I’ve learned as I navigate mask-wearing shopping trips:

The words spoken by a masked cashier (for instance) are always the same. They are predictable.

  • They want to know if you brought your own bags or if you want their bags.
  • They want to know if you’re paying by debit or credit (so they can punch some button on their screen).
  • They say thank you for shopping, or some finale statement, before you leave.

It’s really not that complicated.

AND, it’s highly likely that many people (most?) feel similar, even if they don’t struggle with hearing loss.

It is harder to understand someone whose voice is muffled by a piece of fabric, right?

Still, I sit here on the north side of the American border, and I watch with trepidation what is happening to many States south of me.

Please stay safe. It’s not just about you.

44 thoughts on “About masks: freedom, choice, and hearing loss

  1. I think there was a bit of this when wearing seat belts in cars was made compulsory in the UK, in the early 1980s, but everyone accepted the new rule soon enough. I know there’s a problem for people with hearing loss, though. I was trying to order something in a café on Saturday, and the lady behind the counter kept apologising and asking me to repeat things, and saying that she was struggling to tell what people were saying.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is a big problem with the masks, and also there is a misunderstanding on how to wear the masks properly. I saw an elderly lady who had her mask below her nose, which is one thing if you have trouble breathing due to some health issue, but she kept touching her face and her mask with hands that have touched dirty things like the register (she was a cashier). It is a little bit mind boggling – a lot of education needs to happen for people to understand how to navigate ‘normal’ life with masks. It’s not easy, for any of us, but especially the older generation and people who suffer from hearing loss.

      Thank you kindly for your comment! And welcome. I hope things in the UK are settling down a bit. I have a few loyal UK readers here on this blog. Nice to meet you, too. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t mind wearing face coverings at all, never thought I’d admit that because I always thought I’d feel SO self conscious…….if somebody had said to me way back in January “Andrew you will wearing a face mask every time you travel to work on a bus”, I would have answered “you are kidding me, aren’t you?” But yes I could see hearing loss would make conversation difficult. Stay safe Claudette. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I will remember that about your hearing for when we meet up. My mother and my close friend both have the same issue so I am kind of used to taking that into account, although it’s hard for you and I wonder whether there is anything you can do to make it easier? Aids perhaps? My mother is down to near 90% deaf after she had a very bad car accident earlier this year. The impact of the accident in her head (like a bomb going off apparently) left her completely unable to interact with anyone unless they shout into one ear. She is going to spend a hefty sum to get a high tech aid, which I think is worth it to offset the social isolation factor that deafness brings.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They outfitted me with analog aids (huge, clunky) when I was a child and teenager. It was horrible. I ditched them in University – as my adolescent hormone swings stabilized, so did my hearing. I managed.

      Pregnancy x2 (plus miscarriages) caused all kinds of trouble again. But by then, digital technology was here. I have one tiny aid for my left ear that allows me to function almost to the point where it isn’t noticable. Nor is the aid really. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I feel pretty much exactly the same as you about masks. Ottawa is supposed to announce on Friday if they will make them mandatory which I assume they will for indoor public and commercial spaces.
    I was thinking about you at the post office a couple days ago. The employee was wearing a mask and was explaining different mailing options and prices to the woman in front of me who apologized (so Canadian!) and said she was hard of hearing so the employee just pulled her mask down.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! I see this happening too when people struggle to hear! Honestly, the shield should protect people from airway transmission but it’s such a tricky situation and affects personal comfort levels as well.

      I had two bank apts a while ago and there were shields as partitions, masks were optional. It worked ok in the separate office but at the teller, it was tougher because people automatically speak louder adding to noisier environments which affects both privacy and hearing. For instance, I now know the guy next to me has $36000 in his account… 😳

      Thank you for sharing this story.


      1. I see masks being made with a clear plastic piece in front of the mouth and wonder how these are. I keep thinking doesn’t it get fogged up? Or covered with,um, mouth spray. Lol. Seems like a good idea though.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I think theearthspins summed it up perfectly.

    I wear a mask most of the time I go into a store. Last Saturday, it was hot and I was on the go for three hours. Stopped at six different places. I masked up in the first five, but by the sixth, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I would say compliance here is roughly 60 percent.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. my hearing isn’t great at 50 (too many years of way too loud music) it is a challenge to grasp exactly what someone is saying to me at times. As for taxes, nix em all. Especially federal income tax

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I wear the mask when I walk into the warehouse or bakery or similar places, out of respect for other people.
    In open spaces and during my walk of the day I do not wear the mask, there are few people on the streets and I leave enough distance with any other pedestrian. Is it necessary to wear a mask when there is no other human being thirty meters around?
    The virus doesn’t rain from a cloud, I guess.

    With regard to mask interference for communication affects too much, the most repeated phrase now is: – Repeat what you said, please.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t wear a mask outside either (walking do, going to park etc). Like you I keep a big bubble around me. I don’t see the reason.

      Indoors is a different story. 🙂

      And yes. “Excuse me, could you repeat that please?”. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  8. The refusal to wear a mask always strikes me as a bit bizarre. We accept rules and restrictions from the government all the time — we pay taxes, we drive on the mandated side of the road, we wear seat-belts, we stop at traffic lights, the list goes on and on.

    So to suddenly start demanding the freedom to spread disease defies all reason, rationality or simple consideration for others.

    I have some idea of where you’re coming from with the hearing loss. My Dutch is not as great as it could be and I do still need to concentrate when someone is talking to me. But the medical and social benefits of wearing a mask are so clear that I manage, and will continue to manage for as long as I need to.

    Especially in Belgium, where everyone in the country has at least two mouth masks (one provided by the federal government, the other from the local authority), there really is no excuse not to wear one.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. It is not about wearing the mask, it is about being TOLD to wear the mask. I am older, and do not need anyone dictating to me what they believe to be the best course of action. Give me the facts (not tainted by bias), and I will do the right thing. I believe this is how most people feel. Make it a recommendation, and people will do the right thing voluntarily. Make it a mandate, and they will resist. It is human nature.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. It strikes me that rather than framing it as a health issue, at least some people south of the border are making it a personal freedom issue. Yet no one is hollering about seatbelts being communist.

    I have a blogging friend who’s deaf and relies on lip-reading, so masks pose a major problem for her.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. It enrages me that people can’t be bothered to wear a mask or practice social distancing here in the great coronacootie infested state of Texas. I wear my mask because I respect everyone’s right to life, even if they are a$$holes that won’t respect mine

    Liked by 2 people

  12. My voice is soft so when I’m trying to order at the deli the clerk can’t hear me through my mask and the plexiglass and the background noise, so I’ve taken to holding up a card with my order written on it so they can read it! It’s one way around it!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I also have some hearing loss and rely upon reading the lips of people with whom I speak. Masks make that tricky. Like you, I realize most people say similar things over and over and that’s helpful.
    Here in Virginia, most places of business are requiring people to wear masks. I always wear mine.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Hearing issues clearly make mask wearing a challenge. I’ve noticed it when trying to hear staff that mumble at work, and especially those who are wearing their N95 masks. Language barriers are another issue. We have a very diverse patient population and in the best circumstances it’s a challenge to communicate. Sometimes it’s impossible to find an interpreter and Google translate often doesn’t have the languages I need. I just do a lot of pointing: Baby–ears–me–my machine. They are typically so tired anyway I’m not sure it really matters that they have no idea why I’m in their room.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, the language barrier is another related challenge. This whole situation could have been an interesting way to expand the ingenuity of people to come up with creative solutions for all these problems…and there are some who have done this. That’s what should be making the news more than all the doom and gloom stats everywhere…

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I’ve begun equating mask wearing with seatbelts, condoms, not drinking and driving, no smoking….it’s a just thing we should do. I won’t push someone into wearing a mask….but really…for the vast majority of people who don’t have lung issues, it shouldn’t be a big deal. There’s much more I could say, but I’ll leave it at that…

    Liked by 3 people

  16. I don’t think the news always is right. They tend to focus on the dramatic angle. Most people we see South of your border are out and about with masks. However I do read some horrible things about North of us but I take it all with a grain of salt. We are good here. I tend to believe more if I live in the immediate area and know what to expect by seeing with my eyes. Just the other day, I was reading about a generous money package for Canadians (unemployment) and I wondered aloud how they can afford to be so generous. But then I don’t know the whole story. Most of us with common sense are doing well and we think of others. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Our Prime Minister is printing so much money irresponsibly it makes my head spin.

      And yes, I judge by my own sightings as well. Doesn’t give a whole picture though. My neighbourhood has a very low count, whereas other parts of this city are struggling. But I stick close to home so I don’t see it, I only see what is around me.

      Being actively connected to geographically diverse family and friends around the world I get personal insights rather than media influence. Like you say, media needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Personal stories through chat and email make it sound more real, to me.

      I have several friends who live in Florida and what they tell me doesn’t always match what the media reports.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. No one can afford a pandemic. Both the Canadian and the American governments are printing money like crazy. The Canadians are spreading it around to their citizens, in hopes that they’ll weather the storm, and avoid permanent damage to their economies. The Americans are slyly giving it to their corporate friends, in hopes that it’ll ensure re-election and redistribute weath in a way that favors their feudalistic dreams. You be the judge as to which one works better in the long run.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have many problems with the way my country is governed. 🙄

        But I won’t get into it here. My main point was mask wearing and communication issue, in terms of hearing loss or, as one commenter mentioned, language barriers.

        Note: Trudeau may have been re-elected but only as a minority government.

        Liked by 1 person

    3. The Canadian government is being very generous – the ER Covid program pays $2000/month for four months, no questions asked, just apply on line – but we will eventually pay for this in increased income taxes down the road. They instituted this initially because there were so many people applying for unemployment insurance that they just couldn’t process them all in a timely fashion, but now they’ve just extended it to six months? There are lots of other programs too….rent subsidies for businesses, money to companies to hire back employees, summer student volunteer programs, aid to charities….it’s mind-boggling…..but with a deficit soaring to $250 billion this year there will eventually be a day of reckoning. My problem with some of this is it’s universal – they gave $600 to each and every senior citizen, but maybe the wealthier ones didn’t need it? Same with summer students, kids who never worked a day in their lives are now collecting $1200 a month. So now they’re trying to sort out all the fraud…..because people will always take advantage of freebies, not thinking that future generations are going to have to pay for this. It would seem to me they should have been a bit more cautious in the beginning and helped those who actually needed it.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Many students at the college my partner works at were saying why bother working when I can get more income for free from the gov’t? It was challenging especially for the sectors that could have used an influx of students to help with all the new jobs that surfaced during corona (sanitizing, monitoring at the door, stocking shelves etc).

        Liked by 2 people

  17. I wear a mask every time I go out in public…. to protect others. I wear one
    for you, and if you wear one for me? We’ll all be protected. Call it societal responsibility. My husband has underlying health issues and the selfishness of the general public disturbs me.

    Liked by 1 person

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