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Reviewed: The game-changing clear face mask that helps lip-readers

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Tamsin Brown with daughter Lilac. Picture: Keith Heppell
Tamsin Brown with daughter Lilac. Picture: Keith Heppell

Tamsin Brown and her daughter Lilac have had a chance to give the LJA Miers clear face mask a once-over – and the verdict is positive.

The clear masks were designed by the clinical engineering department at Addenbrooke’s Hospital and manufactured by LJA Miers is St Neots.

Dr Brown, who was awarded a British Empire Medal in this year’s honours list for services to the NHS, built the Hear Glue Ear app after her daughter Lilac experienced hearing issues.

A clear facial covering has been a goal since it became obvious that those with hearing problems – one in six people in the UK – would benefit.

“Communication for those with hearing loss has been difficult with the standard masks that cover the lower half of the face,” said Tamsin. “Even for those who hear easily are likely to benefit since we all use clues and cues from lip reading and facial expressions and rely on these strategies as part of our communication.

“The wearing of face-covering masks causes anxiety in some people that they can’t easily properly what people are saying or read emotions easily, so use of this mask may help alleviate anxiety since it doesn’t just show the mouth area like some of the earlier masks but maximises visibility of the whole face. Some children with hearing difficulties rely so heavily on lip reading and I have seen younger children try to reach up to take an adult’s – particularly their parents – face masks off so that can understand what is being said.

“Of course, then some people choose to take their masks off in that situation and socially distance themselves but standing back also makes it harder to hear, and those with hearing challenges still deserve the same level of protection against the virus. Deaf societies and organisations identified the need for well-made, CE-marked, clear face masks, since the beginning of the pandemic, with some members of the public trying to make their own DIY clear masks with variable success and protection.

Tamsin Brown with daughter Lilac using the clear face masks which are now on sale. Picture: Keith Heppell
Tamsin Brown with daughter Lilac using the clear face masks which are now on sale. Picture: Keith Heppell

“The design is lightweight, which is comfortable: I don’t seem to get the pressure marks across my nose that I got from the other masks and there is clever use of the filter on the bottom to create more of a seal around the chin. The biggest challenge around clear masks has always been fogging, so it’s great these are anti-fog.

“Clear face masks are needed for those with hearing challenges and is likely to have value for people without hearing difficulties but who find communication and interpreting emotions more challenging without seeing people’s faces. A likely game-changer for better communication in healthcare during the pandemic.”

Lilac, who will soon turn 11 and struggles with hearing in one ear, prefers the mask to standard masks, saying it is less of a worry that she will miss what an adult is saying.

She adds: “I love it – it’s so much easier for us to talk to each other with this on.”

Tamsin added: “She also likes the fact that the mask being slightly more triangular, creates a little bit of space in front of her nose and mouth making her feel less claustrophobic than other masks that have a flatter design around her mouth.”

The clear masks are on sale for £50 for a box of 10.

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