Even as vaccines start to roll out and become more widely available in the United States and across the world, face masks will still be an essential tool for curbing the spread of COVID-19 for some time to come. In the near-year since the start of the pandemic, many people have finally found their favorite mask. But for some demographics, face masks present a unique challenge.
For those who are hard of hearing or deaf, typical face masks not only muffle the voice of the speaker but also make it impossible to read their lips. This adds an extra barrier to clear communication. So, some brands and independent Etsy sellers have come up with a solution: Reusable fabric masks with a clear vinyl panel in the middle.
According to the CDC, these masks are an appropriate alternative for people who interact with people who are deaf or hard of hearing, young children, people with disabilities, and others who may rely on lip-reading for thorough understanding. As long as excess moisture doesn't collect inside the mask (read: no fog), the user can breathe easily, the rest of the mask is made with two or three layers of a tightly woven fabric, and the mask fits snuggly with no gaps, it is safe to use. It should be noted, however, that double-masking (which the CDC recommends as of February 2021) is not possible with a clear panel mask.
If you do interact with people who would benefit from your use of a clear panel mask, however, there are plenty of well-made options available. Here are the best ones, according to customer reviews.
Made with two layers of cotton, the MaMo see-through face mask is designed to jut out a bit from the face, making it easier to speak, while the edges still lay flat on the face. Shoppers say it doesn’t fog or slip down while the wearer is speaking. “I teach preschoolers with special needs, including a child who is deaf….I've tried multiple different masks with windows, and they all fog up,” one reviewer shared. “This mask is worth every penny! It is comfortable (for a mask), it doesn't rub or pull, it doesn't stick to me, and the two panels on top and bottom keep it away from my face.”
Available in a wide variety of patterns, this lipreading mask is made with 100% cotton fabric and has adjustable ear loops and a nose bridge wire. Shoppers say it doesn’t fog, even when you wear it with glasses, though some recommend using an anti-fog spray on the vinyl panel. One reviewer attested: “I am a speech pathologist who works with children with hearing impairment. This is the third clear mask I have tried, and I LOVE it! The clear material is sturdy but bends. It fits snuggly and I no longer have to use double-sided tape on my face.”
Made with three layers of cotton fabric, this mask allows wearers to breathe and speak easily without the clear plastic panel fogging up. It also features adjustable ear loops for an ideal fit. Shoppers say the masks—which come in a variety of colors and patterns—make it easy to read lips. “My husband and a coworker have trouble hearing and read lips to understand conversations,” one wrote. “This mask has helped us communicate better.” Other reviewers recommend them for use during speech therapy sessions, as they allow therapists to see mouth movements.
This lipreading mask comes with an adjustable head strap that lends extra security to the ear loops, but it can also keep the mask secure on wearers who have trouble wearing ear loops due to headwear or hearing aids. The cut of the fabric keeps the plastic panel slightly away from the face to reduce fogging. “I needed a clear mask to teach my hearing-impaired students,” wrote one reviewer. “This works wonderfully, and it is comfortable and cute!”
Etsy shoppers say they appreciate the large window of this lipreading mask. Made with cotton fabric, it has a nose bridge wire and adjustable ear loops for a secure fit. “My mother is deaf and I’ve tried various masks so I can communicate with her,” wrote one reviewer. “None fit well and I’ve sent them back. Not this mask though! It fits perfectly. Doesn’t hurt my face. Every area is protected from nose to neck.”
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