Local News

Raleigh doctor sews clear masks for the hearing impaired

Posted May 3

The CDC's recommendations for wearing face coverings can make it difficult for those living with disabilities. With North Carolinians following the guidelines, face coverings have become a norm in public. But, masks can pose a challenge for individuals who live with a hearing impairment.

One Raleigh center created an option that makes masks accessible for more people: A clear mask that helps make it easier to read lips.

Doug Dieter, a patient with a hearing impairment, said, "If you don't have hearing loss, it's very difficult to relate to ,so you don't realize the struggles sometime that somebody might have in understanding what you're saying."

Dieter discovered how much traditional face coverings muffle voices and block lip reading.

Dr. Sheri Mello, an audiologist with Raleigh Hearing and Tinnitus Center, said her mask made curbside treatments with her hearing impaired patients very difficult.

"Our parking lot faces Durant Road, and the traffic noise was getting to be a bit much. We went out to service our clients who had hearing aids that weren't working, but when we came up to them with the covered masks, they had difficulty hearing us," she said.

Dr. Mello took the complaints seriously and researched a sewing pattern for clear face masks. With the help of some of her clients, who happened to be skilled sewers, the donations started coming in.

"Within a couple of days I had ten people reach back out to me saying they would sew the masks and within a couple more days we had about twenty masks here."

Dr. Mello is now passing out the masks for free to anyone in need.

Dieter said the clear masks really do help. "I think it's a great way to help a lot of people out," he said.

With this community effort, the lines of communication will stay open for everyone.