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Latest research shows which masks might be best for the hard of hearing community

face mask hard of hearing
Photo via Official U.S. Navy Page/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

As research shows, wearing masks to protect yourself and others during an outbreak is an idea that goes back centuries. Until enough of the population gets vaccinated for the world to achieve herd immunity, wearing a mask is one of the best ways to protect yourself and others during the coronavirus pandemic. 

President Joe Biden has written executive orders that mandate people wear masks while on federal land and on public transportation, and federal government officials have made a bigger show of people wearing their masks while doing their jobs. And maybe even double-masking is the right idea. 

So, yes, there’s more hope to ending the pandemic than we’ve seen in months. But it’s not over yet. January was the deadliest month since the pandemic began, and there are still heartbreaking stories of entire families dying from the coronavirus. Plus, the U.S. passed the grim milestone of 500,000 dead

That’s why the continued wearing of masks in our everyday lives is imperative. More research continues to emerge about the masks and whether they should be worn to help stave off coronavirus transmissions, and the vast majority of it shows masks are vital to keep people safe from COVID-19. Recently, one of South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s advisers said, “I’m still waiting for someone to point me to where in the world mask mandates are working.”

Well, the latest research continues to show that person exactly where they should be looking to find out the truth on masks. 

–If you’re wearing a mask and you’re talking to somebody who’s wearing a mask, it might be hard for you to have a conversation where both people can perfectly hear what the other person is saying. That’s especially true if somebody in the conversation is hard of hearing

“We have been concerned about this issue from the start of the pandemic as many with hearing loss struggle much more in conditions where others are wearing masks,” Dr. Debara Tucci, who directs the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, told CNN.

In a study for PLOS One released in February 2021, researchers looked at four types of masks (two cloths, one surgical, and one N95) to determine which face covering least hindered speech recognition with “high levels of background noise,” when the noise levels were loud enough that it might interfere with understanding speech. In that case, the surgical mask and the N95 performed the best. 

You can read about that research here

–Since people still have questions about what kind of mask they should wear, CBS News correspondent David Pogue volunteered to test out an N95 to see if they were still No. 1. As a reminder, N95 masks filter out 95% of airborne particles, and they’re considered the gold standard of face coverings during the coronavirus pandemic. 

In this piece, Pogue visits a 3M site to see what the inside of an N95 mask looks like. Then, he was placed in a special testing chamber that was flooded with microscopic salt particles to see how many get through the N95 barrier he was wearing on his face. You can see the results here

The video also addressed the idea that officials “changed their mind” from last spring when people like former Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams and Dr. Anthony Fauci advised people not to wear masks at all.

“I would argue it’s not changing one’s mind,” James Dickerson, the chief scientific officer at Consumer Reports, said. “Knowledge changes. That actually is a fundamental component of science.” One thing that hasn’t changed? The idea that neck gaiters are not a good solution. Said Dickerson: “Stay away.”

Also, as always, be aware of fake N95s

In case you missed last week’s blog post, the spotlighted research showed that double-masking creates an effective “obstacle course” against COVID-19 particles.

Josh Katzowitz

Written by Josh Katzowitz