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Coronavirus: Man with hearing issues says face coverings are making life very difficult

A Belfast man with hearing loss has spoken about the challenges that face covering rules bring to his daily life.

Paul Clarke (49) said simple tasks like going to the supermarket, picking up prescriptions and even ordering fast food can become a nerve-racking experience.

Paul uses a hearing aid, but out in louder environments he relies on lip reading and facial expressions to understand what people are saying.

Face coverings are now mandatory on public transport, and Health Minister Robin Swann has called for the rules to apply to all shops in the near future.

It remains unclear if those working in shops and public transport will be allowed to briefly remove face coverings to help them communicate with those with hearing loss.

"For me I've found things really difficult since lockdown started," Mr Clarke said.

"For one thing, going to chemists has been really hard as nine times out of 10 the person behind the perspex screen is wearing a mask and they can't hear what I'm saying properly so they take down the wrong personal details.

"Even in fast food places, everyone behind the screens has a mask on when you're trying to put an order through. They're repeating their order back to you and you can't hear them so it just becomes frustrating."

Paul Clarke

He added: "You get embarrassed if you don't get the message across properly and you can just feel stupid at having to repeat yourself."

With pandemic restrictions likely to continue into the winter, Mr Clarke said he was worried those with hearing loss would cut themselves off from the outside world.

Claire Lavery, who is director of Action on Hearing Loss in Northern Ireland, said it was importance to get clear guidance from Stormont departments on exemptions for those working in retail and public transport.

"I'm worried that deaf people will just stay at home, that going to the shops is too stressful," she said.

"Another big issue is returning to work.

"The guidance for employers has been really vague in Northern Ireland."

Belfast Telegraph