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A Doctor Weighs in On Reusable Clear Face Masks

People logo People 7/16/2020 Summer Cartwright
a group of items on a table: These new designs can be a middle ground for many people © Etsy These new designs can be a middle ground for many people

Now that we’re months into the coronavirus pandemic, people are starting to get creative with their approaches to masks. Tons of retailers have introduced brand-specific designs, offering up everything from floral styles to designer prints to bulk-packs for families. But while it’s now well-known that wearing these face coverings can help slow the spread of COVID-19, organizations like the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (or AHSA) are encouraging the public to consider mask options that make the mouth visible to ensure communication with people who are hearing-impaired can continue.

According to the AHSA, opaque masks can pose some serious challenges for the 48 million Americans who suffer from some form of hearing loss. Though face masks are certainly essential during this time, wearing one often results in muffled voices and takes away the ability for a person to read lips. 

“Widespread mask use at this critical juncture in the pandemic is key to protecting the public health, but we want to make everyone aware that masks can pose communication challenges for anyone — especially people who are deaf or hard of hearing,” ASHA President Theresa  Rodgers said in a statement. Other ways you can better communicate with a hearing-impaired person include using your hands and body language, talking louder and slower, and moving to a quieter environment. 

Nurses, teachers, and other professionals have started to get behind this idea as well because they say these clear masks can make interacting with patients and students more seamless. And now, Etsy shops are also hopping on the trend. You can find thousands of face masks on the site that have clear plastic or vinyl centers, which allow the lips to stay visible. While these masks provide the same coverage as full-cloth masks, they have not yet been tested for effectiveness. (Experts agree that when it comes to protection, the N-95 mask works best — though they should be reserved for medical professionals and other frontline workers — and a recent study determined that after that, multi-layered sewn cloth masks should be used.)

RELATED: Old Navy Just Added Dozens of New Face Masks for Adults and Children — and You Can Get 5 for Only $13

John Whyte, MD, the Chief Medical Officer at WebMD and an MSNBC healthcare correspondent, said that while there is currently no data on the effectiveness of this mask design, it could potentially offer even more protection than the typical cloth styles because of the plastic center. 

“I love to see these other [mask] iterations because anything that’s going to help people wear it, it’s going to be a good thing,” he tells PEOPLE. “We have to make it more of a habit and get away from the idea that it’s somehow infringing on their rights.” 

He says the windowed masks could be great for those who, in an effort to be understood better, might take their mask off during conversation. According to Dr. Whyte, this is especially important since talking spreads a lot of airborne droplets and germs. 

Plus, he adds that masks that show the mouth can have social and psychological benefits. “I think it’s one more aspect that brings back your personality,” he said. “I think for some people they want to see more facial expression, they want to see some of your identity, if that helps, then more power to that.”

Dr. Whyte said he always wears a layered cloth mask outside of the hospital setting, but if he were around people with impaired hearing, he would wear these windowed masks. But no matter the style of mask, what’s most important is that people find a face covering they’ll actually wear, he adds. 

Below, we found 10 clear windowed face masks available to shop on Etsy, so you can protect yourself (and others!) while communicating more effectively. 

a close up of a box: Etsy © Provided by People Etsy

Buy It! QualityHomemade Face Mask with Clear Vinyl Mouth Cover, $7.99;

a close up of a bag: Etsy © Provided by People Etsy

Buy It! Clear Window Face Mask, $20.99;

a group of people posing for the camera: Etsy © Provided by People Etsy

Buy It! RandlByDesign Anti-Fog Adults/Kids Clear Mask, $25.50;

a blue and white shirt: Etsy © Provided by People Etsy

Buy It! PatchesbyMHY Adult Sized Non woven Fabric Masks, $6.99;

Etsy © Provided by People Etsy

Buy It! OohSoChicBoutique Lip Reading Face Mask, $26.99;

Etsy © Provided by People Etsy

Buy It! SafeSew Face Mask Clear Window, $17;

Etsy © Provided by People Etsy

Buy It! EliJapan Mask with Clear Window and Nose Wire, $10;

a close up of a bed: Etsy © Provided by People Etsy

Buy It! BacksideBoutique Lip Reading Mask, $20;

a banana sitting on top of a wooden table: Etsy © Provided by People Etsy

Buy It! SDKDesigns Adult Window Face Mask with Nose Wire, $24.99;

a colorful toy on a table: Etsy © Provided by People Etsy

Buy It! PawshCreations Clear Window Vinyl Insert Face Mask, $14;

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