By: Ashley McGoey

What were you doing when the coronavirus “hit”? I remember that I came back from the gym and immediately got an email that it was closed for the foreseeable future.  I work in a pharmaceutical chemistry lab for my fulltime job, and we were told to work from home as often as possible. Working in the lab is a big part of my job so I have been limited in what I can do at home. Due to this and the fact that we are an essential business, I have been going to work and working from home during the pandemic. At work, several changes have been in place, including staggering employee shifts to reduce capacity and being required to wear masks.

The pandemic has been stressful in many ways: fearing that someone I care about will catch the virus, having a state-wide shut down that affected the day-to-day activities I was used to, and mask wearing. As a hard of hearing person, masks affect how well I can communicate with people. I don’t hide my hearing aids at work, but I also don’t talk about it openly. When it was communicated that wearing masks is required at work, I knew I needed to say something to my co-workers about my situation. I deliberately sent an email to everyone while I was at home so I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone about it. In the email I told everyone that I have a hearing loss and that reading lips helps me communicate effectively. With the masks, I can no longer do that so it would help me if everyone could speak loudly and clearly to me when we are wearing masks. I sent the email with my heart racing, closed my laptop, and started crying. People are dying of the virus and I was crying about wearing masks at work. I think I had a lot of pent up emotions about the pandemic and they all presented themselves after I sent the email.

When I turned on my computer the next day, I had a few responses from people telling me they were glad I let them know. That made me feel a little better, but I didn’t prevent the anxiety that came with this new change. I ran into the problem outside of work too. When I went to pick up a prescription, I could hardly hear the pharmacist at all and I couldn’t read her lips to try and help. It sounded like her words were all blending together into one long rambling sound. Embarrassed, I just kept straining to listen and answer her questions. I finally got my prescription and hurried away, relieved that the interaction was over. For the rest of my shopping, I was set on only using the self-checkout so I wouldn’t have to deal with that again.

One thing I learned from all of this is that things are always changing and we must evolve or we will be left behind. When we were told that masks are required at work, I was tempted to tell my boss it wasn’t going to work for me and I would rather work at home instead of dealing with it. It has been hard to work up my confidence in myself with my hearing loss and feel like I was losing it when we all had to start wearing masks. Now I see that it was just another challenge. Another test for me. I was strong enough to get this far so it was just another learning opportunity. It forced me to acknowledge the insecurities I still had about my hearing loss and work on them.

I can’t believe a pandemic is something I’m experiencing in my lifetime, but it has made me feel more grateful for the things I have and for the day-to-day things I was forgetting to appreciate. I’ll be happy when we don’t need to wear masks anymore, but at the same time, I am grateful for what I learned from them.

For more tips on living with hearing loss, check out Ashley’s blog:

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