Clear Face Masks Are Better for Communication. Why Aren’t More of Us Using Them?

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When I was five years old, I was diagnosed with profound, progressive hearing loss in both ears, kicking off years of speech therapy and audiology appointments. One of my least favorite parts of my regular hearing tests was when the audiologist would cover their mouth before reciting several sentences that I then had to repeat back. My hearing loss was so serious that, without the ability to rely on lip-reading, I could barely manage to get one word right. It was always an incredibly frustrating exercise, but luckily it was just that: an exercise. I was never going to be expected to communicate without lip-reading.

Fast-forward about 20 years or so and here I am, standing outside my apartment building, struggling to determine if the food the delivery guy is holding is in fact mine because I can’t see his lips through his face mask. After I explain to him that I am deaf but acknowledge that we should keep our masks on, I begin a game of 20 questions: Is it from the restaurant we ordered from? Is this the name the order is under? The phone number? I can’t understand what he needs from me. In the end, my partner comes outside to help (it is our food and the magic word that enables its release to us, he explains to me later, is our apartment number).

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