According to a recent study by the United Nations, around 466 million people worldwide suffer from hearing loss, and 34 million out of the number are children. Each of their lives has become hard because of the use of masks and other facial coverings.
Masks have been a hot commodity with the world dealing with coronavirus. But, these have proven to be a challenge for people with hearing disabilities. The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists exclaim on the potential impacts of face coverings on people with communication challenges. Autism, aphasia, and people with dementia fit into the list of most-affected people. Not only this, but the people with fair hearing and proper communication also rely on facial expressions and lip-reading for effective communication—it aids in assisting people in interacting with others.
Masks come as the best barrier for the hard-of-hearing and deaf people who often rely on lip-reading. These act as barriers to communication for people with disabilities. One solution to the budding problem is straightforward or see-through masks.
What are Clear Masks?
While face coverings are taken as personal devices for protection, they enhance safety from seasonal diseases. Masks have become the face of the ongoing coronavirus. There are two types of face coverings- a double-layer cotton mask and a double layer transparent sheet mask. The former comes to use for the office-going people, the members of the public, sweepers, security personnel, and others. The latter that is wearing Clear Masks can help people with hearing disabilities. Clear masks have transparent sheets in the middle, ensuring that people do not face lip-reading problems. Also, these are breathable, and eliminate the room for user discomfort.
How do Clear Masks Work?
The transparent coverings have been around for a while as FDA-approved, transparent surgical masks. Experts exclaim upon the idea of transparent masks as old as 1938. Dr. Carroll, an expert, said that the transparent material must be non-fog. If the fog obliterates lipreading- the entire essence of having a clear mask goes for a toss. Thus, the material must maintain the solid integrity of the mask that doesn’t allow unwanted particles entrance.
What use does lip-reading come to for people with hearing impairment?
Studies shed light on 70% of communication is non-verbal, with lip-reading contributing to a significant part. Thus, gestures and non-verbal communication comes as a necessity for children facing issues with auditory processing disorders. Regular masks act as a barrier for these children that block their ample speech reading skills. Doctors all across the world agree that speech reading may not come to the deaf’s help entirely. But, transparent masks can render a supporting hand in understanding words and facial expressions, which cannot be the case with regular masks.
Tips for Effective Communication with Masks:
In the era of a global pandemic, masks have become a necessity for people. But why should effective communication take a back step? With coverings on, not being able to see people’s facial expressions or mouths isn’t possible. People witness muffling of voices due to lesser clarity. Communication has become the most difficult for deaf people since they rely upon lip-reading, which also poses a safety risk. But, there are a lot of things that can be done to make their life easier. These little changes can mean a lot to someone and make a massive difference in their lives, and one such solution is clear masks.
- Show your Mouth:
Lip readers rely the most upon the other person’s mouth for better understanding. You can either temporarily remove a face mask or even better switch to a clear mask. Doing so will make the process of speaking to a deaf person easier and safe.
- Don’t Shy Away from Eye Contact:
When everybody’s still getting used to the new normal, eye contact has become even more vital. The significance rises as we cannot gauge each other’s expressions. Eye contact helps in establishing trust through the release of chemicals like oxytocin in the human brain. The subconscious mind begins assuming that we cannot trust the person if he/she doesn’t look in the eye.
- Experiment with Gestures:
Try to use gestures or actions that help in understanding what the other person is trying to do or say. Try keeping the thing pretty simple by pointing or beckoning so that the other person can immediately follow what you’re trying to show them.
- Never Give up:
If you’re struggling to communicate with a person with hearing loss or is deaf, it is always better to keep trying. Make sure to experiment with two-three things at a time, but never give up. It becomes disheartening for a deaf person to undergo the phase when someone loses hope while communicating with them. They perceive the situation as “What you’re saying isn’t hearable, making them feel like they no longer matter.” Know the ways of easy communication and make your beloved feel wanted.
- Remember to Smile:
Even a simple gesture with transparent masks like a smile says a lot more than words do. Note that the smile is visible in your eyes, which can be audible in your speech. With a simple grin, your address becomes much friendlier and warmer. So, always remember to smile behind your mask.
- Speak distinctly:
A mask covers the speech and eliminates the possibility of lip-reading, especially for people with hearing difficulties. Raise your voice and speak as clearly as possible for uplifting the chance of making yourself heard in the best possible way.
Some To-Dos’ and Don’ts’ While Wearing a Mask:
- Ensure unfolding the pleats and facing them down.
- Place the mask over the nose, chin, and mouth.
- Secure the same with tie strings in which the upper strings are tied up above the head and ears, and the lower string runs at the back of the neck.
- Adjust the mask to fit well so that there aren’t any gaps on the mask sides.
- Never let the mask hang from the neck.
- Change the mask after every six hours or when it becomes wet.
- Avoid touching the outer surface of the mask after removing it since it may have infections.
- Untie the string below first when removing the mask. Now untie the string and handle the mask with care by making use of the upper strings.
Masks bring about challenges for the deaf and people with hearing disabilities. A clear mask comes as an effective solution in circumstances like these. Health professionals are all thumbs up for their usage for preventing illness and enhancing communication. Also, don’t forget to frequently wash your hands and avoid coming in close contact with sick people.
Stay Healthy and Safe!