Lip Reading, A Face Mask Challenge
BY KATIE CAVENDER
Face masks. They protect our community against COVID-19 (coronavirus), but they also have created a challenge for people who read lips. For them, not only are germs hidden away, language is too.
Face mask patterns have been created with this challenge in mind. The pattern includes a section of clear material over the mouth to allow for lip reading. You can find this pattern at LVHN.org/facemask. By wearing this mask, you not only can share a smile but communicate more easily with those who have hearing loss.
At Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN), we’re able to help people who read lips with technology. Patients can connect to Interpreter Services through real-time, secure videoconferencing technologies. Interpreters offer live medical interpretation services across the span of multiple languages, including but not limited to American Sign Language, Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic and more. If a patient needs to read lips, Interpreter Services can help. Through communication, patients are empowered and informed about their care.
How you can help
We know that it’s nearly impossible to completely alleviate the face mask challenge for people with hearing loss. For their world to return to normal, everyone needs to wear a lip-reading-friendly face mask, including people who work at gas stations, grocery stores and pharmacies. You can do your part by making a lip-reading-friendly mask for yourself and educating others about the challenges faced by people with hearing loss. You also can donate lip-reading-friendly masks to LVHN by delivering them to one of our approved donation drop-off locations.
If you don’t have a lip-reading-friendly mask, it’s still important to keep your mask on while talking to people with hearing loss. Cloth masks are most effective at preventing the person wearing the mask from spreading germs found in respiratory droplets. That means, rather than helping the person you are trying to speak with, you could compromise his/her health.
As we try to find a new normal in our communities, it’s important to recognize the unique challenges experienced by others – not just those with hearing loss. By coming together to find a solution, we will be stronger together.