Face masks are an essential tool in our fight against coronavirus, particularly as restrictions relax – but there’s no denying that they create a barrier between us and the world, hiding our smiles and facial expressions and making communication generally more challenging. Now imagine how tough that must be if you’re deaf or hard of hearing, and rely on lip reading and other visual cues on a daily basis.
‘The main issue is that people who are deaf and have hearing loss rely heavily on visual clues for effective communication – that includes body language, gestures, facial expression and lip-reading,’ Ayla Ozmen, head of research and policy at Action on Hearing Loss, explains to The Guardian. ‘British sign language (BSL) users also rely heavily on seeing lip patterns as well as facial expressions to understand BSL.’
The charity has created a guide to help, which now includes specific guidance on masks, explaining how alternatives like using simple gestures such as pointing or writing things down can help. But one thing we can all do to support this community is to invest in a mask which has a clear panel or window, to allow them to continue to lip read and minimise any challenges they might face.
‘Remember that people who are deaf or have hearing loss have individual communication needs and you should ask someone how best you can communicate with them,’ Action on Hearing Loss notes. ‘Not every tip will be appropriate for every person.’
‘Be patient and considerate, it is a stressful time for us all, but people with deafness and hearing loss who rely on facial expressions and lipreading are finding things especially diffcult right now.’
While they’re not as widely available on the high street as other opaque designs, it is possible to find clear face masks online, and many of them are just as pretty and affordable as the ones you might have already. Here are 7 of our favourites.
7 face masks with a clear window or panel to shop now