Communication Breakthrough: Clear Masks Help Hearing-Impaired Patients

For Your Health

The increased use of face masks due to COVID-19 has been especially hard on those who read lips and rely on facial gestures to communicate. Now health care providers are taking notice.

(NBC News)  Having surgery can be stressful enough, but even more so for someone who is hearing impaired.
Melissa Parker recently faced removing her hearing aids and being unable to read the lips of health care workers who were wearing masks.
“I would not really understand any verbal questions or communication,” she says.

Melissa works at Novant Health in Charlotte, where she was slated for surgery.
Spurred by her own need, she began sourcing clear masks to help future patients, unaware that volunteers were making the first prototypes for her own operation.
“When my surgical nurse came to get me she was wearing the mask,” Melissa recalls.  “I was absolutely blown away, I really was almost moved to tears.”
While masks are key to preventing the spread of coronavirus, they’re also presenting communication challenges, even for patients not hard of hearing.
“They don’t get those subtle cues, whether it’s a smile or anything we do that sends them a message that reassures them,” says Novant Health’s Dr. Pamela Oliver.
Novant has partnered with a North Carolina company to produce 5,000 of the reusable clear masks.  Some are already in use.

“We’ve had an overwhelming response in both people who’ve reached out to ask for us and then the feedback we’ve gotten,” Dr. Oliver says.
Dubbed “Melissa’s Masks” after the woman who helped make them happen, they’re ensuring clear communication at a critical time.

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