I was been diagnosed with hearing loss at age 4. Growing up hearing impaired in America and being mainstreamed in the late 60’s to the early 80’s was not easy.
Fortunately, I incorporated good coping skills and was an excellent lipreader. After I finished college, I met my husband and we began to settle down in our jobs, built our communication-friendly home (that’s another article for Limping Chicken), and decided to start our family.
We experienced a smooth pregnancy with no complications. The time came for our first child to be born. I was in labor for over 25 hours with no success.
The doctor determined we needed a C-section in order to safely deliver our child. Off to the Operating Room (OR) we went.
My world changed at the moment we were in the OR room. The doctors, nurses, and even my husband were all garbed in surgical scrubs and wore traditional masks which prevented me from lipreading them. What were they saying? I had no clue.
There was no time to call an interpreter. I was cut off from them because of the masks. I could no longer communicate effectively. I remember feeling vulnerable; scenarios were running through my mind of things that could go horribly wrong.
The story ends with Mom and baby being fine but I could not forget the experience. I kept thinking about deaf, hard of hearing, and late-deafened people knowing that my situation was NOT an isolated case. I felt compelled to act on behalf of all of us. Being helpless because I could not lipread was a problem I was determined to fix.
I researched to see if there were any clear medical masks on the market; I could not find any listed. I then consulted with an attorney to learn the process of how to go about developing a clear mask.
I learned about patents, trademarks, FDA approval process, manufacturers making masks, and basically got a crash course in how to start a business for a medical product.
Luckily, I met great people along the way who either sympathised with me and thought a clear mask was a cool idea or who emphathised with me and knew a clear mask was a cool idea.
I connected with a mask manufacturer that was already thinking about making a clear mask and we decided to partner together and make a clear medical mask a reality.
A lot of time was involved initially figuring out exactly how to design the mask in a way that the FDA would approve while keeping in mind the important features Deaf, hard of hearing, and late-deafened people need in a mask.
Interpreters have also been helpful in bridging the gap between the medical and dental fields and the deaf, hard of hearing, and late-deafened patients. Whenever the process would get bogged down in details, all I had to do was think back on that night when my daughter was born and renew my vow that I did not want any other person to NOT understand what was going on around him/her… a clear medical mask, really, is a no-brainer in that once you see the mask, you immediately get how this mask is a better and improved alternative over traditional face masks.
We are pleased to announce that the FDA in the United States has approved a clear medical mask that allows speech-reading.
The Communicator clear mask is an FDA approved ASTM-Level 1 surgical face mask in the USA. Manufactured by Prestige-Ameritech, this mask is made in the US.
Visit the website www.SafeNClear.com to learn more about the clear medical and dental face mask that will allow you to lipread your healthcare providers.
We hope to soon have the CE mark (Commission E). Save this article and share with your deaf, hard of hearing, and late-deafened contacts and help us spread the word.
You can friend Safe’N’Clear on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. Ninety-three percent of all communication is non-verbal (facial expressions) so in reality, The Communicator clear mask helps everyone communicate better.
The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.
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