Face masks’ effect on the deaf community

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The pandemic inspired the Segura family to start a YouTube channel to help promote deaf culture awareness. Emilee Eegura is deaf with a cochlear implant and can communicate by signing and speaking. 

For one of their YouTube videos, Emilee removed her implant and had her husband quiz her on her lip reading abilities. This video has over 8,000 views. Though Emilee has an entire lifetime of lip reading experience, it’s still difficult to rely on lip reading for communication. 

Communicating while wearing face masks is a new challenge we all encounter daily. For those in the deaf community, this adjustment has been extremely frustrating.  Now that health and government officials have encouraged us to wear face masks, there are no lips to read.

There have been efforts to make clear face masks to help address this issue. However, not all clear face masks are the same. Each clear face masks can fall into one of three types: face shields, clear plastic with fabric edges, and clear plastics with foam edging.

Face shields have great visibility, but can often reflect light, causing glares. Masks that have clear plastic with fabric edging are actually not effective at all; the fabric edging locks in moisture from breathing and will fog up the plastic piece, defeating the idea of a clear face mask. Clear masks with foam edging have been very effective but are usually the most expensive of all the clear mask types.

Despite the difficult circumstances, Hannah Larson has recognized a positive side effect of the COVID pandemic: “Everybody is starting to understand a little bit of what it’s like to be me.” This communication barrier has allowed for people with good hearing to better understand the challenges of being deaf.

Hannah hopes that the pandemic’s way of bring awareness to deaf culture will encourage others to make better efforts to communicate with those that struggle to hear. “If this is gonna help incentivize people to learn ASL, I mean, [with] face masks, [you] can’t really talk but your hands are still free.”

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