Normal face masks reduce coronavirus risks, but they also raise communication barriers for people with hearing loss who read lips or use America Sign Language (ASL). Window masks can be an answer in some cases.

Jenna Cisneros of Local 12 WKRC interviewed our CEO, JB Boothe, and our colleagues Elizabeth Whelpdale and Deanna Herbers at Community Services for the Deaf. Her report describes the extraordinary challenges that arise for our deaf and hard of hearing neighbors in this environment of COVID-19 social distancing. We’re making available a limited quantity of window masks available on a first-come, first-served basis for individuals who hope to reduce obstacles to communications. You can email for complete details.

When you communicate with deaf or heard of hearing people, keep those seven tips in mind.


Seven tips for communicating with people who are deaf or hard of hearing

  1. Face the person your speaking to. Make eye contact and keep it while you are talking. Don’t turn away or cover your mouth. Many deaf and hard of hearing read lips to help them understand.
  2. Be aware of the lighting and background noise. Turn off or move away from background noise. Make sure your face is not in shadow, and there are no strong lights or sunshine in the listeners’ eyes.
  3. Keep your distance. A distance of 4-6 feet makes it easier for people with hearing loss. It helps people with hearing aids and people who read lips or use sign language.
  4. Speak distinctly. It’s important to speak slowly and clearly. Shouting or exaggerating your words doesn’t help because those actions distort your lip movements.
  5. Don’t talk over another speaker. Take turns talking.
  6. When necessary, repeat or rephrase your words. Using different words to say the same thing can make communicating your message more effective.
  7. Don’t hesitate to write down your question or comment. Most people carry phones with text ability. A note or text can be effective in communicating with people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Don’t be afraid to write or draw to help to understand

And arguably, one of the most critical points to remember is to keep trying – even if a deaf person does not understand what you’re saying the first few times. So many of our partners have told us that when someone says ‘oh, don’t worry. It doesn’t matter’ it feels like they mean ‘you don’t matter.’ Even if it takes four or five times of rephrasing or even writing it down, don’t give up.