‘Hard of hearing’ pins help cut down on COVID-19 misunderstandings


A small button is making a big difference for some Islanders who have difficulties hearing, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic adding more barriers to understanding.

Officials with Hear P.E.I. are promoting the use of the pins, which indicate that the wearer has problems hearing.

“People who are wearing the pin get a very positive reaction,” said Daria Valkenburg, co-president of Hear PEI. 

“Not everybody will point out the pin … but you will certainly notice a difference in how you’re treated. People will speak a little bit louder, they tend to face you so that you can hear them a little bit better. It’s just that people will have a little bit more patience.” 

Masks, shields, rules all barriers

Masks designed to stem the spread of the coronavirus can make people’s voices sound muffled, and if masks are not made of clear plastic a person with difficulty hearing can’t see lip movements as a clue to what is being said. 

This is one of several pin designs offered by Hear PEI. (Hear PEI video/YouTube)

Then there are the Plexiglas barriers designed to shield store workers from transmission of the virus, which can also make it harder to hear what is being said.

And finally, pandemic restrictions in the early days meant people couldn’t have a relative with them during certain kinds of medical appointments. 

“All the challenges, they seem like little ones, but they start to build up,” Valkenburg said.

“There are many times you come to a situation where people don’t know that you have hearing loss. It can be a little bit difficult sometimes to navigate your way around.” 

Several designs offered

Hear P.E.I. started out distributing small and simple pins with the lettering “Hard of hearing” some time ago, but now they offer campaign-size buttons measuring nearly six centimetres in either a plain design (for $2) or one of several designs (for $4). One of the plain pin models has the wording in both French and English. 

“We just put out a holiday version and we’re going to put out one with maple leaves in the new year,” said Valkenburg.

She said Islanders who have been wearing the pins are “finding it gives them a little bit more confidence in going out and being independent. It provides that little bit of visibility that lets others know that you can’t hear — or comprehend always — what is being said. 

“For some people, it’s been the tipping point where it’s allowing them to run errands that they normally wouldn’t have the confidence to do. It just cuts through some of the embarrassment.” 

If you are interested in purchasing a pin, you can send an email to hearpei@gmail.com

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