Communication breakdown: Most agree pandemic destroyed the ‘art of conversation’

NEW YORK — Many Americans probably feel like they’ve been living on a deserted island for the past year. According to a new survey, most adults think all this isolation and the complications of wearing masks is affecting their ability to communicate with others. Along with conversations going dry, many Americans are missing the sounds common in the pre-pandemic world.

The poll of 2,000 U.S. adults over the age of 40 finds 38 percent long to hear the sound of live music once more. Similarly, 35 percent just want to go to the movies again and hear some surround sound. Another 28 percent miss the thrill of hearing live chants at sporting events.

Americans aren’t just missing the sounds of big events; 24 percent miss the sounds of their kids or grandchildren playing in person.

Researchers also asked about more specific sounds and phrases Americans miss during COVID-19 isolation. Respondents provided a wide variety of answers, ranging from the sound of “sermons in church” to “slot machines” to “the sound of my paycheck being cashed.”

One person told researchers they miss the sound of “someone saying they loved me.” Others miss “tender whispers in my ear” and even the “sound of sex.”

Conversation in decline?

Put together by Eargo in celebration of World Hearing Day, the survey asked Americans about the state of post-pandemic conversations. Three in five people (62%) say the pandemic has put the “art of conversation” in serious decline.

A big part of the problem appears to be face masks. Three-quarters believe they just can’t understand what anyone is saying with a mask on. Additionally, 57 percent believe it is significantly harder to have an engaging, rewarding conversation over the phone or through video chat.

With all of this in mind, it isn’t surprising that just under seven in 10 Americans feel like they’re woefully “out of touch” these days.

“By this point in the pandemic, we all know what it feels like to be on a Zoom call or FaceTime chat that just isn’t giving us that sense of connection we would have in-person, and how taxing that can be, but for older Americans and those with hearing loss, it can be even more of a strain,” an Eargo spokesperson says in a statement.

Perhaps even more so than dramatic discussions or debates, many Americans just want to kick back and converse with their friends. Over 70 percent say they are most looking forward to chatting up friends and family in-person once the pandemic is over. However, an overwhelming 85 percent add they have no interest in talking politics moving forward.

Some virtual conversations can be convenient

There may be no replacing actual human contact, but many Americans in the poll have had a positive experience meeting with their doctors digitally. Three in four respondents have tried telehealth services out for the first time over this past year. Sixty-nine percent of that group plans on continuing to do so moving forward out of convenience.

Researchers also asked about the COVID-19 vaccine, with roughly one in five adults already scheduled to receive the vaccine soon. Meanwhile, many are still unsure (28%) about getting the vaccine and 39 percent say they will make an appointment soon.

The survey was conducted by OnePoll.

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