Action on Hearing Loss (AHL) has provided advice for stores in communicating with customers that rely on lip reading while implementing the Government’s latest advice on face coverings.

On Sunday, Boris Johnson announced a change in government position to encourage the use of face coverings for the public and workers when in shops. However, stores warned that the measure impacted communication with customers.

Analyst and Tesco employee Bryan Roberts told betterRetailing: “The facial expressions people rely on are removed and the muffling a face covering creates can make it harder to communicate.”

Anita Nye, of Premier Eldred Drive in Orpington Kent agreed, stating: “Our staff have them and we have shield as well, but we have a number of deaf customers who communicate by reading lips so mask don’t help in those cases.”

Asked for help on the issue, Roger Wicks, director of policy and campaigns at AHL said: “Where facemasks are worn and lipreading isn’t possible then people can still following a number of simple communication tips:  speaking clearly and slowly whilst using plain language, using assistive devices such as hearing loops and microphones and reducing the amount of background noise such as piped music. If this still proves difficult then people should be prepared to write information down for those with hearing loss.”    


  • Speak clearly and slowly in plain language
  • Use assistive devices such as hearing loops and microphones
  • Turn down in store radio and other background noise
  • Use speech to text tools on a mobile and show the customer the text
  • Have a pen and paper handy at the till to write down messages if required
  • Ask them to speak to or contact a friend for help

Store owners are advised to communicate the advice to store colleagues. A poster from AHL summarising the advice for use in store can be downloaded below



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