COVID’s Forgotten Victims: The Deaf Community

July 21, 2020 – As the main line of defense against the coronavirus, face masks have become the new public standard. However, this protective barrier has added a communication barrier for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

“Due to the pandemic, more and more healthcare professionals are treating COVID-19 patients behind a barrier, using masks that prevent lip reading and prohibiting in-person interpreters,” say it. National Association of the Deaf.

Masks annoy not only lip readers, but also non-lip readers, “simply because being able to see mouth movements and facial expressions are useful clues for basic communications,” says the organization on its website.

The nonprofit urges hearing people to be inclusive by using visible written communications and clear masks.

“Lack of support has been one of the most difficult challenges we have faced at work during the pandemic,” wrote Helen Grote. MD and Fizz Izagaren, MD, in an article published in the BMJ “It leaves us and our deaf / deaf patients isolated and ignored.”

Grote and Izagaren say that “the emphasis on access to transparent masks and on establishing safe and effective communication for health workers and hearing-impaired patients will be a legacy for years to come”.

The FDA has approved a surgical mask with a transparent anti-fog window, called The Communicator.

Safe’N’Clear companyproduces the mask.

Other clear masks, while not approved by the FDA for medical use, are also gaining attention with the coronavirus. The ClearMask is designed for the deaf and hard of hearing by allowing front-view visibility and can be purchased in bulk. Home customers are looking for craft retailer Etsy that offers high-quality full-sheer masks, as well as clear anti-fog masks.

Safe’N’Clear was founded by Anne McIntosh, who suffers from profound deafness in both ears. She was inspired to create clear masks after having an emergency Caesarean.

“The nurse, the doctor, and even my husband wore head-to-toe surgical clothes, including regular masks,” she says. “I was not able to repeat them or participate in the conversations surrounding the birth of our daughter.” Asheinin

“The Communicator allows the deaf and hard of hearing to receive the same protection as others without cutting them off from visual communication,” she says.

Safe’N’Clear has increased its supply, but according to McIntosh, “demand still exceeds production”. She says they need to limit the number of masks sent to each customer in order to reach as many as possible.

“The inability to hug, shake hands or touch others has made the human smile even more important as we continue to build relationships between providers and patients or between teachers and students,” she says.

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Jothi Venkat

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