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Do clear face masks offer as much protection as normal surgical masks?

John Coverstone, AuD

Board Certified in Audiology

10 August 2020 - 428 Views

Clear masks can offer protection from the wearer transmitting droplets to others, which is the purpose of a mask. However, the considerations extend far beyond this. The benefit of clear masks for close communication are very enticing when communicating with others who have hearing loss (or, frankly, for anyone). However, clear masks are essentially a solid barrier. This raises a concern for both respiration and for disease transmission. You breath needs to go somewhere when you exhale, so where is it going? The only possible escape route is through the lining surrounding the mask, which is in contact with your face. What is the material used to form that lining? To be effective for the wearer, it needs to allow breath to escape and fresh air to enter upon exhaling. To be effective for everyone else, it needs to be made of a material which catches tiny particles of fluid (with virus bodies potentially in them). Some clear masks do not meet these requirements well and should be used with caution.

There is a certain concern that some masks may have the potential for fogging up in some situations. I haven't worked with enough of them to offer expertise on this front, but the more obstructive they are to your breath escaping, the greater potential for this. Of course, fogging up defeats the purpose.

The last concern is with disinfecting them. When you breath against a mask for even a short period of time, any virus bodies which you may harbor are expelled against the barrier (and this is the purpose of us all wearing masks - we don't know for sure when we might become infected with COVID-19). This means that any mask should be treated as immediately contaminated as soon as you use it. If you handle the mask, your hands are potentially contaminated. If you put it back on and you touch the outside surface, you may increase the risk of disease transmission. Cloth masks can be thrown in the wash to effectively clean and disinfect them. Medical-type masks are disposable. However, you must be diligent in completely disinfecting a clear mask in order for it to be effective as a preventative tool for disease transmission.

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Jeffrey Cline, BC-HIS


10 August 2020 - 436 Views

Yes, the idea is to keep anything from coming in contact with a patient when we are so close. They prevent anything from being blown on patients and also allows them to see our mouths in order to obtain speech cues from us. I just had a patient today who is almost classified deaf but can manage with instruments and lip reading. With out lip reading they are not functional.

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