Thank you to everyone who has been in touch to ask about or share information on masks that have clear panels to help make communication easier. We’ve gathered the details together and share them below.
There is no doubt that anxiety and mask misery is proliferating among those who rely on being able to see the mouth and face of the speaker to help them hear and follow what’s being said.
Across the UK, at least 11 million of us have some level of deafness. Every single one of us might now find life harder due to the use of masks and other facial coverings. The hard reality is that masks create a barrier that prevents hearing access and restricts communication inclusion.
The problem with masks
- Masks cover the mouth and face and by doing so prevent people from lipreading or from using (quite often subconsciously) mouth shape and facial expression to assist in accurately hearing and following what is being said.
- Masks muffle the sound of voices, not just reducing the volume but, even more importantly, reducing the clarity, so words are harder to properly hear and understand.
- Masks also create problems for those who use British Sign Language (BSL) as oppose to listening to the spoken voice as BSL relies heavily on facial expression used in combination with hand gestures and movements and body language.
The clear panel solution
A clear panel constructed into the mask makes it possible to see the mouth or even full face (assuming that the panel does not ‘fog up’ as the wearer breathes or speaks). This can be a significant benefit even if it doesn’t resolve the problem of voices being muffled.
Concern for others
“… so long as they provide sufficient protection”
Whilst looking into the challenges people are having with communication and masks, we’ve been very touched by the high level of concern for the health of others that has repeatedly been expressed by those desperately needing for communication solutions.
Commonly, alongside messages of hope that clear-panel masks will start to be used widely, is the caveat – “so long as they provide sufficient protection to people”.
So what’s available
We cannot offer a view on the quality or efficacy of any of the masks listed below, but we are pleased to share the details so you can see the sorts of things available. You might also wish to watch this 50-sec video from the BBC on the right way to wear a face covering.
Homemade by a friend
Here’s a mask that was profiled in the Gateshead Chronicle along with a lovely story about how it was created by a woman for her friend who is an English/British Sign Language interpreter. They seem to have quickly recognised the importance of faces being visible to permit communication. Read more here [this is a link to an external site].
Created by a Covid-19 support group
This clear-panel mask was featured in the Salisbury Journal. Once again, there is a lovely story behind its origins, which lie in a Facebook request for clear-panel masks being spotted by a member of the Salisbury Makers Hub, a group set up to produce items to support Covid-19, Read more [this is a link to an external site]
Created in Scotland
Edinburgh startup, Breathe Easy, is producing hundreds of re-usable masks with clear panels, having trialled the first prototypes in early April. Read more [this is a link to an external site]
The student start-up
Here’s a mask that has been widely seen across social media. It was made by a student in the USA who seems to have quickly spotted the need for masks that would allow people to see mouths and faces. Read more [this is a link to an external site]
The face shield
Also from the USA is this mask called ‘ClearMask’. It claims to be the first transparent mask with full-face visibility. It has patent-pending design and is said to provide an effective and anti-fogging shield. Read more [this is a link to an external site]
ZVerse full-face shield
This shield has been created by an American company called ZVerse. It is one of a number of styles and designs that rest around the neck and swing up or down in front of the face. Read more [this is a link to an external site]
A mask in hot demand
A further USA product is this one known as The Communicator Mask, which was designed for use in operating rooms. Demand appears to have outstripped supply and the company producing them is not currently taking any more orders. Read more [this is a link to an external site]
Make your own mask with clear panel for lipreading
If you want to make your own mask, you will find a pattern on the website for USA charity in Seattle, Hearing, Speech & Deaf Centre [link to external site].
Video with instructions for creating your own