Lipreading is a common technique used by people who have, or are developing, hearing loss. As hearing deteriorates with age, or as people with hearing loss grow up learning to rely on visual cues to compensate for missing verbal information, many turn to lipreading.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus earlier this year, the deaf and hard of hearing community has been discussing the challenges and barriers that come with the wearing of face masks. While it’s important to do our part in ensuring the virus doesn’t spread, it’s also important for us to be able to maneuver our day without the additional communication struggles.
While clear face masks are one solution, it doesn’t necessarily make sense for a deaf or hard of hearing person to wear a see-through mask, when what they need is for the people around them to be wearing one. Additionally, see-through masks come with their own challenges, such as the fogging of the clear plastic and the lack of FDA-approval.
What may be a better alternative for clear face masks for the deaf and hard of hearing, is a mask with a statement. Wearing a mask that declares you are deaf or hard of hearing will help those around you immediately know that you may need extra support to communicate while wearing face masks.
“[We] believe that wearing face coverings is a simple, effective way for people to do their part,” says bestselling author and hearing loss advocate Jen Pastiloff in a recent Instagram post. “Unfortunately, people aren’t listening to the experts. Facts and figures aren’t changing their minds so let’s try a new tactic: FASHION. If we can’t make wearing a mask smart, then let’s make it cool – that’s where you come in!”
Being bold in your face mask statement and wearing a mask that declares “I read lips,” might help you communicate with others.
“There’s nothing wrong with letting someone know you’re deaf or have hearing loss,” says HLM author Danielle Guth. “It allows others to be aware of it and know why you may not hear or understand them. It’s okay to ask for repetition or clarification if needed.”
“There’s nothing wrong with letting someone know you’re deaf or have hearing loss,”
To help support people with hearing loss communicate while wearing face masks, we at Hearing Like Me have designed a selection of face masks specially for the deaf and hard of hearing community.
Additionally, you can design your on face mask. Simply sew or write your own message on a fabric mask. Don’t be afraid to show off your individuality and your uniqueness by letting people know who you are and what you need to thrive in your conversations.