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Clear Face Masks Eliminate Frustration For Deaf, Hard-Of-Hearing Patients

BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4)- Face masks are mandatory in public places in Colorado with a few exceptions. Gov. Jared Polis' sign language translator is one of them. People who are deaf or hard of hearing need to see her face so she can communicate effectively.

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Health care workers wearing masks have also encountered the issue. One system where masks are essential is offering a "see through" solution.

"It's nice to see you," said Dr. Heather Holmstrom on a Wednesday afternoon at UCHealth Family Medicine in Boulder.

And that went both ways in the exam room. Patient Jaclyn Tyrcha has been deaf since the age of 4. She communicates with American Sign Language (ASL), movements of the hands and face, and she reads others by their expressions.

She appreciated seeing her doctor in a clear face mask. Colorado's mask mandate has made Jaclyn's life frustrating.

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"It's been a real disconnect for me from people," she said. "You can't see their smile, or if they're angry, or just neutral.

Lariisa McClung is the staff medical ASL interpreter at UCHealth. She's been wearing a mask with a window for a while and said patients appreciate it.

"(They say) 'Oh, thank goodness, I can understand so much better. Oh, that's awesome'," said Lariisa.

"It makes me so happy to see the doctor, to see the interpreter, to see people and to feel that human connection," said Jaclyn.

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"If that protects us from COVID-19 and it allows us to better communicate," said Dr. Holmstrom, "That's great because I think we're going to be in this situation for a while."

UCHealth has been distributing 10,000 of the transparent face masks. Being better able to communicate has been important throughout the healthcare system.

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