Helen Keller once famously said, “Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people.”

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic I have heard, read, and been asked the question, “Are hearing aids essential?” When posed this question, I suggest taking out the word “aid” and asking it again. “Is hearing essential?”

For people who battle hearing loss, it can be a fight to stay engaged, perform their job, or be there for their family and friends. They are present but separated by an invisible barrier that can limit social engagement and performance throughout their lives. People need to be connected to their loved ones and their community.

We already know that hearing loss causes loneliness. Now, add these trying times we are all facing and the fear that comes from not being able to hear a news broadcast or participate in a family discussion about these important topics. Fortunately, hearing healthcare professionals have the unique ability to provide peace and reassurance through better hearing.

During a crisis, it’s more important than ever that people stay connected. Hearing healthcare professionals know this is not as simple as buying a cheap device online. This route is missing the most important element of the process: the experience, expertise, and care of the hearing healthcare professional.

There is an urgent demand from current hearing aid wearers needing repairs or needing their hearing professional or audiologist to “get them back online” as soon as possible. There are also the people for whom quarantine has made a hearing loss, or a family member’s hearing loss, more obvious and who are ready to act. But how do we do that safely in these unfamiliar waters?

With global discussions happening on COVID-19, our first thoughts should be ones of safety and keeping people well. Hearing healthcare professionals must adapt in a world with COVID-19 and begin to provide care in a different, but still safe and responsible way. Patients will want to know they are in a safe space and that you can help them.

As a hearing healthcare professional, you will need to showcase your updated safety and cleanliness practices and limit the number of people in your office during a patient visit while using personal protective equipment. Continue to practice social distancing whenever possible and use common sense. Lastly, make sure your patients know these practices are in place in your office, and their safety is your number one concern.

For weeks, businesses have been quiet while people stay home and wait to see what’s next. Hearing loss won’t go away, and neither will the patients who need your help. Hearing healthcare professionals must responsibly adjust to the current circumstances while continuing to lead with their hearts and care for patients. It’s important that people with hearing loss have the opportunity to safely see a local hearing healthcare provider in their community for a certified test and receive a hearing aid solution personalized to their ear and their loss.

In these unprecedented times when everyone is debating what is and isn’t essential, I say this: You’ve always been essential, and you always will be essential. What you provide is needed, for many, now more than ever. You are the gateway to peace and assurance for those who would otherwise be even more isolated than a lot of us are feeling right now. Show that you care, lead with your heart, and help those who need help. Hearing health is a necessity, and better hearing can never be compromised.