Transparent masks may improve daily communication and patient-clinician interactions

The widespread use of masks during the COVID-19 pandemic has posed numerous communication barriers, muffling speech and impeding lip-reading. For deaf or hard-of-hearing (DHH) individuals, masks have made daily as well as clinical interactions especially difficult. With approximately 72 percent of people older than 65 experiencing hearing loss, and with this age group having higher hospitalization rates compared to others, the increased availability of transparent masks may be particularly important in health care settings. A research team led by investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology evaluated attitudes toward their newly engineered, transparent mask by surveying members of the general population and health care workers, including DHH health care workers. They reported that 91 percent of DHH health care workers felt that communication would be easier with a transparent mask, with positive expectations from other health care workers and the general population as well. The results of their surveys are published in JAMA Network Open.

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