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CDC-Approved Transparent N95 Face Masks Are Finally Here



Masks are effective tools for reducing the spread of viral illnesses—especially during a season when infectious diseases are circulating at alarming rates—but it’s no secret that they sometimes make it difficult to communicate. (By this point in the pandemic, you’re probably familiar with the uncomfortable feeling of asking someone to repeat what they said three times to make sure you heard them correctly.) 

So it’s big news that Optrel’s N95 masks are the first masks that have a clear window in front of the mouth to be approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Other face masks with clear windows already exist, but this one is exciting because it’s an N95. (Given the transmissibility of the very contagious omicron variants circulating right now, experts recommend using a high-quality, well-fitting face mask—and an N95 or KN95 will be the most protective.)

The new Optrel N95 masks could go a long way in helping us communicate better this winter, given that it’s generally more difficult to understand what other people are saying when their faces are covered. This is in part because masks take away our ability to lip-read, Sarah Sydlowski, AuD, PhD, an audiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, tells SELF. While this affects the nearly 38 million adults in the US with hearing loss more than people without some form of hearing loss, it takes a toll on all of us, Dr. Sydlowski says. “We probably don’t even realize it, but, to some extent, we all rely on lip reading,” she explains. When you’re in a noisy environment—like a really loud store—you naturally study the face of the person talking to you for cues, since you can’t hear their speech as well. Lip reading (sometimes called speech reading) can also be essential for English language learners or for some people who speak English as a secondary language. 

While lip reading comes in handy for everyone, it’s crucial for certain groups of people, Dr. Sydlowski says, including children, who rely heavily on visual information when talking to other people, and elderly people who have lived with hearing loss for multiple decades, since it can worsen with age. The use of masks has presented unique challenges to these people during the pandemic, Dr. Sydlowski explains: “I work with people with hearing loss on a daily basis, and the single most common comment I’ve gotten for the last two years is, ‘These darn masks.’” (If you can relate to this because you’ve found it especially difficult to communicate with people wearing masks, it’s not a bad idea to get your hearing checked out, Dr. Sydlowski says.)

For this reason, it could be immensely helpful for people in certain industries—like teachers or daycare staff who work with children, those who work in nursing homes, and anyone who works in a medical setting—to consider having a transparent mask on hand, like the N95 from Optrel.  

Source: Self


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