Communication Tips During the COVID-19 Pandemic

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are protecting themselves by washing their hands, social distancing, and wearing face masks. While the day to day can already be difficult if you are struggling with hearing loss, it can be even harder with all of these health precautions. Read more to discover some tips and tricks to make communicating a bit easier.

The CDC recommends that you wear a face mask if you can, but these can get in the way of communication. Masks cover the region between the nose and mouth to minimize the spread of the virus. They are used to protect both you and others because they significantly reduce the chances of the virus spreading.

According to a survey completed by the Hearing Health Foundation, 87% of their 625 respondents are experiencing difficulty communicating at this time.1 These face masks cover roughly half of your face, making it tricky for others to read non-verbal cues.2 To make matters more difficult, if you rely on lip-reading, face masks make it much more difficult to navigate daily conversations. Of those in the survey that said that they are experiencing difficulty communicating at this time, 85% said that the inability to read lips is a problem.1 Some face masks, like the N95, can even impact our sound level by making sounds quieter and more difficult to hear, and the frequencies of our speech are muffled making speech more difficult to understand.2

As you can see, while face masks protect our health, they also create a new communication barrier for those with hearing loss. You may be asking yourself “Okay, but what can I do to both follow CDC guidelines and communicate?”.

What can you do to help?

  • “Communicator masks”
    • Some people have been wearing “communicator masks”3, which are masks with a clear panel in the front. This not only protects you and others, but it also helps you to lip-read or allow others to read your lips.*People have been making these masks at home, and if you would like to make one for yourself or loved ones find the pattern here4 or another one here5.
  • Capture the attention of communication recipient
    • Do your best to face the person, gently get their attention, make eye contact, and use meaningful gestures. We forget the number of visual cues used in conversation.
  • Speak slowly and enunciate
    • As you normally would when communicating with someone with hearing loss, speaking slowly and enunciating will help to improve communication. Speaking louder is not the answer.
  • Rephrase when asked to repeat
    • It may help if you rephrase what you said when asked to repeat.2 Certain sounds are harder to catch or distinguish, so rephrasing what you said may help.
  • Reduce or minimize background noise
    • Talking in Costco at peak business hours may be difficult between the amount of people, machinery moving goods, general acoustics, and other surrounding noises. Try to separate yourselves from the noise to a quieter environment to make it easier to carry on your conversation. The same holds true for car radio and TV volumes.

You may have found other ways to improve communication not on this list that work for you, but these suggestions are definitely a good place to start. Whether you have a hearing loss or live with a loved one with hearing loss, following any number of the tips listed above can greatly help others with whom you are communicating. Be sure to follow social distancing guidelines by staying at least 6 feet away from others if you are going to lower your mask or choose not to wear one.

If you think you or a loved one may have hearing loss, take our online hearing test to determine if you should be tested by a professional!











One-fourth of Americans age 65+ will fall every year1. If you have hearing loss, your risk for falling greatly increases. In a study2 conducted at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Dr. Frank Lin assessed hearing and balance in seniors and found that those with even mild hearing loss were three times more likely to suffer from an accidental fall.

How are hearing loss and falling related?


Your inner ear is a key player when it comes to balance. It provides signals to your brain that control your spatial reasoning, range of motion, and equilibrium – all vital functions for balance. If there is an issue with your inner ear, those balance functions may not work as they should, putting you at an increased risk of falling.

Cognitive Load

Untreated hearing loss puts added strain on your brain to decipher sound signals. This is commonly referred to as ‘cognitive load.’ If your brain is using more energy to try to hear, ‘there may be fewer cognitive resources to help maintain balance,’ says Dr. Lin.

Can hearing aids reduce my risk of falling?

Yes! A Washington University School of Medicine study3 found that participants had better balance when their hearing aids were turned on vs off. Research Dr. Timothy Hullar’s hunch is that hearing aids made people more alert and helped them ‘use sound information as auditory reference points or landmarks to help maintain balance.’ Not only that, but using hearing aids also relives cognitive load, reducing the risk of falling.

Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury in older adults. There are many things you can do to reduce your risk of falling, including getting treatment for hearing loss.

Think you may have hearing loss? Contact Amplifon Hearing Health Care today at 877-806-7054.


1National Council on Aging –

2Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine –

3Washington University


Recovering Lost Document and Records

Recovering Lost Documents

Events such as the flooding caused by Hurricane Florence commonly result in the loss of important personal documents. North Carolinians can use the following resources to replace lost or damaged documents and records.

N.C. Birth and Death Certificates: 919-733-3000

N.C. Marriage Certificate: 919-733-3000

N.C. Driver License: 919-715-7000

Vehicle Titles: 919-715-7000

Bank Checks, ATM/Debit Cards, or Safe Deposit Boxes: 1-877-275-3342

Credit Cards:  Contact the issuing institution:

Credit Reports (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion): 1-877-322-8228

Social Security Card: 1-800-772-1213

Medicare Cards: 1-800-772-1213

Green Card: 1-800-375-5283

Passport: 1-877-487-2778

U.S. Savings Bonds: 1-800-722-2678 or 800-553-2663

Tax Returns:1-800-829-1040

Military Records: 1-866-272-6272

Insurance Documents: Contact your own insurance agent

SNAP Card (Food Stamps): 1-866-719-0141

EBT Card: 1-888-622-7328

Real Estate & Property Records (Mortgage Documents, Deeds, etc.): Contact your own real estate agent or your county Register of Deeds office:

Medical and Prescription Records: Call your own doctor; medical and prescription records are tracked electronically.

Other Family Records:

Individuals, including homeowners, renters, and business owners, in the designated counties who suffered loss or damages due to Hurricane Matthew may register for assistance online at, by downloading the FEMA mobile app, or by calling  1-800-621-FEMA (3362). For those who use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), the number is also 1-800-621-3362.  For people using TTY, the number is 1-800-462-7585.

Source: (September 2016)

Over-the-counter Hearing Devices. A solution?

Over-the-counter Hearing Devices.   A solution?

Independence is a great thing – we love being able to snap our fingers and have the solution to our problem.  Unfortunately, when it comes to our health – we should take a less direct approach. Our hearing deserves the best attention it can receive – once we lose it, we cannot every fully get it back.

You may have heard news the last few years around solutions to improve the affordability and access for hearing aids and hearing healthcare.  Our very own Dr. Tom Tedeschi along with Janette Kihm conducted a study, “Implications of an Over-the-Counter Approach to Hearing Healthcare: A Consumer Study”.  The proposed solution to increasing accessibility while lowering cost is to develop a “separate category of ‘basic hearing aids’ approved for over-the-counter (OTC) sales for adults with mild-to-moderate hearing loss.”

In order for the OTC model to be successful, individuals require tools to properly and accurately self-diagnose and classify their level of hearing loss and selecting and using a Personal Sound Amplification Product (PSAP) or ready-to-wear hearing aid.  The first part of this study was for the participants to do exactly that.  The second phase was for each participant to go to a provider to be professionally tested and have a product recommendation provided, if applicable.

The results were not surprising with only 1 in 4 being able to correctly self-diagnose their degree of hearing loss. Even with correct diagnosis, the overall satisfaction rates of the device quality and the overall benefits participants received from the devices was very low. Secondarily, it was quite clear that participants were not clear on important technical features to maximize the personalized benefits of the devices.

Here’s some Q&A of common questions we receive:

Q: Why are your hearing aids so much more expensive?
A: OTC devices typically amplify sound but can’t actually help your brain process sound which is the most important part of addressing hearing loss.

Q: OTC hearing devices are going to work for me the same way that my old ones do so why would I pay more?
A: OTC hearing aids can be extremely uncomfortable in the ear, and for many patients they’re difficult to manage because they are not properly fit by the hearing professional.

Q: OTC hearing devices are more convenient to get a hold of and will help me be able to hear again for a lot cheaper.
A: OTC hearing aids can actually be the cause of hearing damage or make existing damage even worse with improper use and adjustment.

Q: The new OTC bill says I don’t need to see a licensed audiologist/hearing professional so why would I?
A: OTC hearing aids bypass the crucial steps of professional testing, programming, fitting and follow-up to rule out hearing problems and ensure the device is appropriate for your ears which is what our program offers.

Q: I just don’t understand why I would go through your program when OTC devices are less expensive and do the same thing.
A: When you factor in office visits such as fittings, adjustments and cleanings that would not be included with OTC devices – our discounted pricing would prove to be more than cost effective and more effective in addressing both short term and long term hearing loss.

You can check to see if your insurance covers hearing aids and services or you can find a clinic near you and get a hearing test.

Read the full study report here.

Amplifon’s Hearing Health Care Program is an NCRGEA member benefit. 

Understanding COLAs: North Carolina Cost of Living Adjustments for State and Local Government Retirees Not Keeping Pace with Inflation

RALEIGH, N.C. (May 17, 2016) – North Carolina’s strong retirement benefits system brings great value to 300,000 deserving local and state government retirees. However, as lawmakers debate the state budget, many current and future government retirees worry that their benefits could be at risk. The North Carolina Retired Governmental Employees’ Association (NCRGEA) helps to protect these benefits, and a key priority for NCRGEA is Cost of Living Adjustments, or COLAs. In 2015, some local government retirees received a small COLA, while state government retirees did not receive any. It is confusing, and now, NCRGEA wants to help both local and state government retirees understand what this decision means for them.

“A COLA is designed to provide retirement security by protecting purchasing power from the effects of inflation,” explains Richard Rogers, Executive Director of NCRGEA. “If COLAs do not keep pace with inflation, many retirees are forced to make difficult choices between necessities such as food and medicine.”

During the 2015 legislative session in North Carolina, the House unsuccessfully proposed a two percent COLA for the Teachers’ and State Employees’ Retirement System (TSERS) and a one percent COLA for the Local Governmental Employees’ Retirement System (LGERS) via House Bill 616, however it has yet to be passed. Just this week, the House budget proposed a 1.6 percent COLA for teachers and state government retirees.

“The House budget’s proposed COLA is a step in the right direction. However, with COLAs below the pace of inflation since 2008, we still have a lot of work to do to guarantee security for our retirees,” explains Rogers. He points out there are several key factors influencing the need for a COLA in 2016:

  • Once retired, the majority of North Carolina’s former government employees’ pension is on average $17,000 for LGERS and $20,500 for TSERS per year. Small changes in consumer prices can have a substantial negative impact on these fixed-income retirees.
  • Retirees have different spending patterns than those in the workforce, yet COLAs are calculated based on the costs-of-goods frequently purchased by current workers. For example, many current workers have benefitted from the recent drop in oil prices; however, retirees tend to spend significantly less on gas, so it does not greatly impact their finances. Therefore, the calculation used to determine a COLA does not necessarily reflect retirees’ purchasing needs.
  • These retired men and women taught our children, built our roads, maintained our parks and protected us from crime. They worked hard to earn their retirement benefits.For these reasons, securing a COLA remains a goal for NCRGEA’s membership of over 66,000 local and state government retirees. “Public servants provide an important and valued service for our state, and they deserve financial security in their retirement,” says Rogers. “A COLA for both state and local government retirees would be a strong step in the right direction.”


The North Carolina Retired Governmental Employees’ Association (NCRGEA) is a private non-profit association of local and state governmental retirees that focuses on helping you enjoy your retirement years by keeping you informed about retirement benefits, programs, and services. With membership over 66,000, NCRGEA is the largest lobbying Association in the nation for retired state and local governmental employees. The objectives and mission of this Association have been and will continue to advance, promote and defend by any lawful means the rights, interests and welfare of retired employees of the local governments and the State of North Carolina. For more information visit

Adult Care Homes

Adult Care Homes

Adult care homes are residences for aged and disabled adults who may require 24-hour supervision and help with activities of daily living.

  • There are over 1,200 adult care homes in North Carolina
  • Adult care homes vary in size from family care homes with 2-6 residents, to adult care homes with more than 100 residents

Adult care homes are licensed by the state Division of Health Service Regulation (DHSR) under state regulations and are monitored by Adult Home Specialists within local Departments of Social Services. Homes must respect the rights of residents as outlined in the North Carolina General Statutes.

The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program advocates on behalf of adult care home residents and provides assistance with informal grievance resolution upon request of a resident/legal representative.

North Carolina operates the State-County Special Assistance Program to help low-income families pay for the cost of care in adult care homes.


For more information, contact your local Department of Social Services.

Fire Safety Check List

Fire Safety Check List

In Pamlico County yesterday, an elderly woman lost her life in a house fire and her daughter was badly burned trying to help her get out. According to fire department officials, the blaze was ultimately blamed on an electrical heater that was in close proximity to combustibles in the house.

NCRGEA would like to remind you to be safe from fire as the winter temperatures get colder.

To help you, here is a Fire Safety Checklist provided by the Raleigh Fire Department. Please read and be safe. If you have any questions or concerns about issues in your home, you can call your local fire department.

Raleigh Fire Department
Fire Safety Checklist

  • Baseboard and portable heaters are away from anything that can burn; furniture, curtains, papers, clothing, etc.
  • The fireplace is equipped with a sturdy metal screen. The chimney is checked before each heating season and repairs are made as necessary.
  • Extension cords and multi-plug adapters are used as little as possible. Extension cords are not tacked to walls, under rugs or through doorways.
  • Cooking food is never left unattended while on the stove or in the oven. If you have to leave the kitchen for a short time while cooking, set a timer or take something with you to remind you that the stove or oven is on.
  • The stove and oven are kept clean of grease and spilt food. In the event of a fire, you know to cover the flame and turn off the stove
  • Matches, lighters and other smoking materials are kept out of the reach of children, preferably in a locked cabinet.
  • Always place candles in non-tip candleholders before you light them. Keep them out of the reach of children. Extinguish candles before you leave a room or go to bed.
  • No smoking in bed is a rule in your home. Drowsy or medicated people may forget lit materials and start a fire.
  • Be sure Smoke Alarms are installed on a ceiling or high on a wall outside of the bedroom(s) on each level of your home.
  • No smoking in bed is a rule in your home. Drowsy or medicated people may forget lit materials and start a fire.
  • Twice a year you install new batteries in your smoke alarms and they are tested once each month.

Be sure your family knows what to do if there is a fire. Prepare an Escape Plan and have a Home Fire Drill so your family can practice their escape. To learn more about escape plans visit:

Discussing how to respond to an emergency can help reduce fear. It is critical that everyone recognizes the sound of the smoke alarms and knows two safe ways out of each room. When the smoke alarm sounds, there is no time to lose!
For an additional checklist please visit