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Can You Wear a Mask When Talking to Someone With Hearing Loss?

By CaptionCall

With everyone wearing masks to help prevent or slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), CaptionCall has noticed people who are hard of hearing or deaf have been adversely affected. Those that are deaf need to see facial expressions to fully understand what is being communicated.

Many people with hearing loss read lips to better understand a conversation. Likewise, those who are hard of hearing find it hard to communicate because masks muffle speech. So, should you wear a mask when speaking to someone hard of hearing? And if so, how can you improve the experience?

What Do The Studies Say About Wearing A Mask?

Studies have shown that wearing a mask in public may be the single greatest way of preventing the spread of the Coronavirus.

According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), they have identified airborne transmission as the dominant route for the spread of COVID-19. A research team compared infection rates in Italy and New York before and after masks were made mandatory.

In both areas, the infection rates started to flatten once the mandate was made. Wearing a mask properly (i.e. covering the mouth and nose completely) lowers the risk of both contracting and transmitting the virus. It is vitally important for adults and older children to follow the CDC’s recommendations for wearing a mask in public, especially where social distancing guides are harder to follow.

Since there is not a clear idea of when life can return to “normal”, it might be a long time before being able to run out of the house without donning a protective face mask. The head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Anthony Fauci, MD, warned that a coronavirus vaccine was at least a year to 18 months from wide distribution. Other experts have said that that is an optimistic timeline. But there is a way to wear a mask and still communicate effectively with people with hearing loss.

Improve the Conversation for People with Hearing Loss by Wearing a Clear Mask.

According to the World Health Organization, around 466 million people worldwide (5% of global population) are either deaf or have disabling hearing loss, and people over 60 experience a greater degree of hearing loss and are at a higher risk of contracting the virus – even more reason to wear a mask.

Fortunately, for the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities the emergence of masks with windows, or that are completely clear, have revolutionized masked communication.

ASL Mask Wearer

The revolution started with people making homemade masks. One college student started sewing a clear window in the middle of her homemade mask, this post went viral on social media and now there are many options to get a clear mask. A quick google search will find patterns to make similar clear panel masks at home.

Now, companies like Safe’N’Clear added windows to disposable surgical masks to make them available in bulk (though still on backorder). And ClearMask, made comfortable, full, clear masks that are anti-fog and allow for a full view of the face which is where CaptionCall ordered them.

In an effort to help you further, if you would like to make your own clear-panel mask, here is a simple design and instructions for care.

Will Your CaptionCall Trainer Wear a Mask?

CaptionCall is committed to improving the lives of those with hearing loss – and keeping them safe during the pandemic. During this time the demand for the captioned telephone service has soared.

We provide an essential service to hundreds of thousands of people with hearing loss t

o keep them connected with their loved ones. Our captioning centers have and will remain open, no matter what, as a designated essential service.

Man wearing clear mask

The FCC has been extremely helpful, and a critical ally, during this time of crisis to make sure that those with hearing loss that necessitates the use of captioned telephone service can continue receiving captioned telephone service. An additional part of that essential service is the installation of new phones into the homes of customers by our trainers who carry essential worker badges. We also have a self-installation option for those that are not comfortable having someone in their home.

All CaptionCall Trainers and Account Managers have clear masks and are required to wear them during the installation and instruction process. This policy is in place to keep our customers safe and assure our customers understand how to use their CaptionCall phone. This is a continuation of CaptionCall's commitment to your safety and giving you the best experience possible with our Red-carpet service. We want to make sure that everyone is protected and able to understand when we deliver the phone.

If you, or someone you know has hearing loss that necessitates the use of captioned telephone service to communicate over the phone, visit here for more information and to sign up for captioned telephone service.