Will retail employees start to use clear face masks?

Muffle. Muffle. Muffle. We’ve all noticed a difference when we try to listen to someone through a mask. But for people with hearing loss, this is especially challenging. Whether they have hearing loss or not, most people combine what they see with what they hear to understand spoken language. You probably read lips and don’t realize it — in addition to reading facial expressions. What I see on your face tells me if you’re joking or getting furious with me. But with masks, I can’t see you.

Would clear masks solve this problem?

Now, I know the county mask mandate will be lifted soon here in Memphis, but we’ve all gotten so good at wearing our masks. They prevent the spread of other diseases like the flu. Wearing masks may become something we do from time to time as we advance.

So I’d like to explore the pros and cons of clear masks. 

Pros of clear masks

I can see your beautiful face again. I know when you’re smiling. I can tell if you’re getting confused about something I’m explaining. With clear masks, we may have fewer misunderstandings because facial expressions help us tap into what others might be thinking.

I can hear you more clearly.

Will you still sound a little muffled through a see-through mask? Sure, you will. But because I can see your lips, my brain can fill in the blanks to a certain extent.

If you watch a YouTube video of a person saying “Ba”, “Ba”, “Ba” and at the same time listen to an audio of that person say “Fa” “Fa” “Fa”, you will hear BA, BA, BA. That’s right, in most people, what you see overrules what you hear.  

Seeing a person’s face is that important.

I would definitely recommend clear masks for those of us living or working with:

  • Children, especially those who can’t hear well, communicate via sign language, or struggle with social cues.
  • Adults with hearing loss, using sign language, or who struggle with social cues.

Cons of transparent masks

There aren’t many cons. I will mention that I see hard plastic masks for sale. They look nice (as masks go), but they don’t meet CDC guidelines. The CDC says, “Masks should completely cover the nose and mouth and fit snugly against the sides of the face without gaps.” So consider what you’re buying.

Other options include plastic and cloth hybrids that allow you to breathe through the fabric, but we can still see your lips. I’m sure this technology will continue to advance. But for now, these are some of the most aligned with CDC guidelines.

And it’s important to realize when you choose to wear a clear mask, it helps people who have hearing loss understand you better. Wearing one is an act of love for family, friends, and your community.

If you’re struggling to hear more than usual during the pandemic, it’s time to get a hearing test. Contact my office to schedule an evaluation.