UK delivers clear face masks to support those with hearing loss

UK delivers clear face masks to support those with hearing loss
iStock-Kemal Yildirim

The UK Government is delivering 250,000 clear face masks to help support those with hearing loss and those who use lip-reading and facial expressions to communicate.

The masks will be given to NHS and care workers to help them communicate with people with certain conditions like hearing loss, autism, and dementia. The transparent masks have an anti-fogging barrier to ensure the face and mouth are always visible to help doctors, nurses, and carers communicate better with their patients.

Minister for Care Helen Whately said: “Everyone using our remarkable health and care system deserves the best care possible and communication is a vital part of that. This pandemic has posed numerous challenges to the sector, so we are always on the hunt for simple solutions to support those giving and receiving care.

“The introduction of clear face masks will help overcome some of the difficulties carers wearing PPE are facing communicating with people who rely on lip-reading. If this proves a success, I look forward to increasing the supply to make sure whenever a clear mask is needed, there is one available.”

Supporting diverse communication

Around 12 million people in the UK currently have hearing loss, making the masks invaluable for people who need to lip-read to communicate and for those who rely on facial expressions to support communication, including foreign language speakers and their interpreters.

The new deal with US-based company ClearMask will see 250,000 masks delivered to NHS trusts and social care providers across the UK over the next few weeks.

The government is working with the devolved administrations on allocations of the masks. The first delivery has already been distributed to NHS trusts, with further deliveries over the next couple of weeks, and social care providers will also have access to the masks through a new pilot system with Local Resilience Forums.

Roger Wicks, Director of Policy and Campaigns at Action on Hearing Loss, said: “We welcome the procurement of clear face masks, which has the potential to improve the accessibility of health and social care services for those who rely on seeing facial expressions and lip-reading to communicate, including people who are deaf or have hearing loss.

“Since the outbreak of coronavirus, people have told us continually that they are worried about communicating in health and social care settings where face masks are now in constant use. We know that clear masks have the ability to reduce barriers for both patients and staff across the NHS and social care services. People need to understand the information and instructions that they are given by health and care professionals: ineffective communication and misunderstandings have the potential to harm the health and wellbeing of people with hearing loss.

“We hope that different services across the NHS and social care are able to access clear masks and effectively match them to patient need. It will also be important that these masks are complemented by effective communication tips and deaf awareness among staff to ensure that people with hearing loss get the support they need.”


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