Why You Should Consider Wearing a Clear Mask

September is Deaf and Hard of Hearing Awareness Month. This year, the Deaf and HoH communities are facing unique challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  

According to a 2008 survey, approximately 11% of the US population has some degree of hearing impairment. Many of us rely on reading lips or using facial expressions as context clues during everyday interactions such as asking for directions on the street or ordering food in a restaurant. With face coverings currently being worn in most places, reading lips isn’t usually possible anymore. 

Clear masks have been used by doctors to communicate with Deaf or HoH patients for years; but didn’t take off with the general population, even as PPE became part of our daily lives. You can find them on websites like Amazon, Etsy, and safenclear.com. Just like with any mask, you should make sure to read the description before you buy one, as not all are created equally. Face shields and mesh fabrics are generally not considered protective enough on their own. There are currently, no clear n95 respirators but at least one is in development. 

I bought my clear mask online for about $8. It’s reusable, and I wash it with soap and water when I get home (unlike cloth masks, you don’t have to wait till laundry day to clean them!). I don’t find it any more difficult to breathe in than a disposable or cloth mask, although I haven’t worn it during any kind of strenuous exercise. 

So, why should you consider wearing a clear mask? Well; If you work in retail or another job that involves interacting with a lot of people, you are required to accommodate customers with disabilities. In the case of hearing impairments, speaking normally through a clear mask is often the most efficient way to do that. Even if you don't work in retail, there's a 10% chance that anyone you speak to might be Hearing Impaired, and being able to read lips can be beneficial to Hearing people as well, if you're somewhere loud. Since a lot of people don’t even realize that clear masks are an option, you may set an example and potentially help even more people!