Hearing loss is an impairment from which many people, including myself, suffer. With the help of a pair of hearing aids and a learned ability to read lips, I have, for the most part, successfully navigated my way through it. I am not asking for your sympathy. Hey, everybody has problems. What I am asking for, though, is your cooperation.

Thursday marked the beginning of International Week of Deaf People 2021, bringing awareness to those who are deaf and hard of hearing.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for many of us with hearing issues to communicate. Face coverings make it impossible at times to understand what someone is saying. The hearing-impaired are not necessarily deaf or unable to hear sound. I can hear what is said but cannot always process it. The words are clearer and more understandable when I can read the lips of the person who is addressing me.

Imagine the difficulty in understanding a list of restaurant specials when the server is masked and you are hearing-impaired.

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Life got somewhat easier when most mask mandates were lifted last spring. But still, many folks opt to keep their face covered. Sometimes it's the policy of a retail or food service establishment that requires employees to mask up. When informed that I have hearing issues, most servers and cashiers lower their masks immediately. Others don't and won't, even when asked.

When someone presents to you that they are having a tough time understanding what you are saying, please be kind. Lower your mask. Whether you be a cashier at a retail store or a server in a restaurant, that kindness will go a long way in determining whether someone has a positive or negative experience while interacting with you and the business you represent.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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