If you wear a mask at work, you need these communication tips.

Since the start of the covid pandemic, my job as a speech pathologist has become increasingly difficult. The people I work with are often hard of hearing, some have difficulty seeing, and others just don't know what is going on.

If I want to talk to someone at work, I am required to wear an N95 respirator, a face shield, and a gown and gloves as well. Everyone in the facility who talks to a resident is required to wear the same mask, shield, gown and gloves attire.

Therapists, nurses, housekeepers, aides, and cooks included.

We all look the same.

Because of the layers of mask and face shield, we all sound the same.

And no one can hear us. We can't even hear each other. If you are hard of hearing and lip read--too bad. No lips to see.

We therapists are not alone in the struggle to talk to others through layers of magic plastic shields and textile fibers. Masks and face shields are required at many businesses that meet with the public such as retail stores, grocery stores, and gas stations. If you are having problems talking to people when wearing a mask, or hearing others who have a mask on, read on. These communication tips will make your life easier.

Communication Tips:

1. Speak slowly. It is easier to understand slower speech.

2. Over articulate. Make a point to make each sound when you talk and open your mouth wider.

3. Use lots of gestures. Use your hands and arms to point out directions, show actions, or demonstrate what you want. (Think charades!)

4. Type up and print out things you might say frequently such as instructions, dollar amounts, or requests. Make sure to use an easy to read font such as Arial, and enlarge it to 18 point font or higher.

5. Try using a voice amplification device. These are commonly used by people who have a weak or soft voice, but are also used by entertainers or instructors. A small, wearable amplifier is attached to a headset you speak into. Bluetooth or wireless versions are also available. You can find these online for $20 on up.

6. Carry a dry erase board, pad of paper, or use a writing app on your phone to write down what you are saying so the other person can read it.

7. Finally, take a deep breath and let it out slowly as you talk. You need more air coming from your lungs to make your voice louder.

What strategies have YOU tried? Do you have additional tips? I would love to hear from you!