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Central Texas Local News | kcentv.com

Mask order poses problems for the deaf community

90% of those with hearing aids rely on lip reading to communicate. But with a mask, that is impossible.

TEMPLE, Texas — Its been over a week since Gov. Greg Abbott mandated the use of face coverings. For many of us, it's just annoying and doesn't change the way we live. That isn't the case for the 48 million Americans who are hearing impaired and rely heavily on the use of lip reading and facial expressions to communicate. 

"90% of people who wear a hearing aid rely on lip reading," said Dale Wallace, a hearing instrument specialist at Baxter Hearing Specialists in Waco. "The mask muffles the sound allowing them to hear only about 50% of what they normally hear."

Sydney Collister was born deaf and was implanted with a cochlear implant at age one. She said she did not realize how much she relies on lip-reading until the pandemic. 

"I can hear but sometimes I am hearing it, but not processing it, so lip reading has always really helped me," Collister said. "But now, not having that has been a shock and really stressful and hard to adjust to."

A study from the University of South Florida explained that a face mask can reduce sound by as much as 12 decibels. 

"This right here (the mask) is the problem," Wallace said. "People have good hearing aids, but they just can't understand with the mask, clarity and volume are two different things." 

Not only has the mask order affect the way those that are hearing impaired communicate, but it also can affect mental health. 

"I have had so much more anxiety than I normally do," Collister said. "Because it's not only at work, it's at the grocery store, at the gas station, it's everywhere." 

Wallace also explained that both a mask and a hearing device sit in the same spot, which causes another problem. 

"When you pull the mask off the hearing aid comes flying off," Wallace said. "It happens with a cochlear also." 

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