Masks cause communication gap in the deaf community

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – People who are deaf or hard of hearing have had trouble adjusting to masks and here in Huntsville that community is trying to find a way to bridge that communication gap.  

Elizabeth Wharry came to WHNT with a plea for the general public, just to be aware.  

“My main concern is that I read lips, and with a mask, I can`t see what you`re saying,” Wharry said.  

COVID-19 has changed our lives drastically, and while we’re taking the necessary precautions, for the hard of hearing or death, this causes a frustrating barrier.    

“All I’m asking the American public is, please either project so that I can hear you or pull your mask down so that I can read what you`re saying. “ 

Elizabeth joked saying that she was an introvert and didn’t mind the social distance, but she said you can still be six feet or more away so she can read your lips.  

She asks that people have patience when you come in contact with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing.  

“Whether you wear your mask or not, that`s your business, I respect that, but understand for me it creates a communication barrier. “ 

Her story is just one of dozens here in the deaf community and she hopes that her speaking out she can be an unofficial advocate for those who are too timid to say something.   

“That’s why I’m here to bring awareness to the public, we`re not ignoring you, we literally cannot hear you. “ 

She says those who are deaf or can’t hear well aren’t being rude, just that masks make voices muffled. People tend to speak more into the mask than projecting their voice, so it’s even harder to understand.  

To make outings easier she’s asking retailers to think about background noises like music. Those cause auditory fatigue and makes a trip to the store not so pleasant.   

“When I go to a store, I don`t wear my hearing aid. Because of the auditory fatigue that presents a danger to me if there`s a danger in the store.” 

 Elizabeth knows that not everyone knows American Sign Language, but to be aware and patient. There’s other ways to communicate, like with a pen and pad.  

But if you find yourself without that, speak up or show your lips, at a safe distance of course.  

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