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Face Masks Developed For Those With Hearing Impairments

May 4, 2020
face masks

In the fight against the coronavirus at the center of the global pandemic, individuals protect themselves with equipment like face masks and gloves. Spread occurs when water droplets expelled from mouths and nostrils enter into the noses, mouths, and eyes of others. Therefore, barriers catching such droplets save those wearing them from infection, and prevent them also from expelling potentially viral material into the surrounding area.

However, wearing face masks proves difficult for those with hearing impairments. They often rely on visuals to determine the words people speak. Face masks cover mouths, preventing them from lip reading. Though, one Raleigh doctor came up with a clever solution.

Dr. Sheri Mello works at the Raleigh Hearing and Tinnitus Center as an audiologist. After experiencing difficulty speaking with her clients, she resolved herself to developing a solution.

Dr. Mello began researching and arrived at the solution for her patients with hearing impairments.

Clear Face Masks Show Lips

The problem arose when patients drove up to parking lot for service. Since social distancing orders mandate certain restrictions, parking lot service temporarily replaces indoor service. As a result, outdoor noise presented a new problem.

“Our parking lot faces Durant Road, and the traffic noise was getting to be a bit much,” she explained. She and her coworkers met patients in the parking lot, but those with dysfunctional or broken hearing aids experienced difficulty hearing any of them.

Dr. Mello looked up designs that incorporated clear, yet non-permeable material to allow those with hearing impairments to read lips through. Once she discovered it, she turned to some of her patients for assistance.

Those with skills in sewing volunteered their time to produce the masks. From there, things snowballed. “Within a couple of days I had ten people reach back out to me saying they would sew the masks and within a couple more days we had about twenty masks here,” said Dr. Mello.

Now, she offers them for free to those that need them.

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