As the world must come to panic with the case of COVID-19 and everyone trying to take cover and protect themselves with face masks, this becomes a strain and headache for the deaf and hard of hearing community; like myself.
I am hearing impaired and try to read lips with every person I encounter to make out communication face to face. However, these few weeks I have found myself feeling more discouraged to go out and handle my essential needs with all the face mask covering of lips. Questioning myself do I need to make a badge and wear daily stating ” I suffer from a hearing loss, please remove the mask”.
Before COVID became so big in the North Carolina area, I visited one of Charlotte’s largest medical facilities. The nurse who came into my exam room was very friendly and helpful. She was eager to assist me with my procedure but lack communication with my hearing impairment. I do understand the need of precaution with all the safety gear working in a medical field, but how does the patient benefit when he/she can’t understand what is being said or asked of them. After going through the typical medical review questions and constantly asking for repetition and clarity, I asked could she remove the mask. She looks every bit confused about why would anyone ask for their medical professional to remove their mask. I explained the hearing impairment. How it is very important to understand what I am being treated for as well to answer questions.
Healthcare has become the biggest misunderstood job profession when it comes to those with a hearing impairment. With the COVID being the biggest topic and concern for the United States only one person thought of the hearing community. A young college student Ashley Lawrence decided to introduce a face mask with a transparent area around the mouth for others like me who read lips. The masks allow us to see the wears’ facial expressions, which is very crucial with Deaf and Hard of Hearing. The masks are like surgical masks worn in healthcare settings, which protect the person wearing it from fluids and droplets that may contain viruses.
Weekly the number of cases grows in our area with more people tested positive for coronavirus cases and more people from our community seeking medical attention these masks are a great asset with communication. We are thankful someone thought of us, when we are the least thought of community and overlooked.