Communication while wearing masks
Everyone deserves the safety and protection a mask provides, just as everyone deserves access to communication. For many people who are deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing, wearing masks make communicating difficult or even impossible.
There are options to make communication easier! These options can be used by anyone who would like to communicate better when wearing a mask, but are especially helpful for communicating with people with hearing loss. Having patience when using these strategies and tools will help you successfully communicate.
- Point to objects, posters or signs with words that clarify what you are saying. For example, if you are asking someone to sign for their purchase, you might point to the card reader or the receipt.
- Write notes with a notebook and pen (or pencil), whiteboard and dry-erase marker or an electronic writing tablet.
- Use communication apps on your smartphone or mobile device.
- Wear a clear mask.
See below for links to vendors that supply writing boards, apps and masks. The Minnesota Department of Human Services does not endorse any particular electronic writing tablets, apps or masks. We encourage reading the reviews and comparing features and costs to find the product that fits your unique needs.
Electronic writing tablets
There are dozens of manufacturers of electronic writing tablets. Search your preferred electronics retailer using the keywords "LCD writing tablet" or "electronic writing tablet". Here are just a few examples.
Features to look for, depending on your needs: Does the app allow you to type your question or response? If yes, does it read it aloud for the other party? What languages can the app caption? Are font sizes adjustable?
Apps for writing notes
Here are a few manufacturers of clear masks. You can also find online directions for making them yourself.
*The Minnesota Department of Health's guidance on face shields: "It is not known whether face shields (a clear plastic barrier that covers the face) provide the same source control for droplets as face masks, but they may be an option in situations where wearing a face mask is problematic. For optimal protection, the shield should extend below the chin and to the ears, and there should be no exposed gap between the forehead and the shield's headpiece."
For more guidance and information about masks, please see:
If you would like to learn more about masks and sound, the University of Illinois measured the effects of face masks on speech and shared their findings in this video: Which mask is best for hearing?