Posted by: hlacentralma | June 21, 2020

Compilation – Clear Face Masks

During the COVID-19 pandemic, people with hearing loss are frustrated by masks and face coverings.  Being able to lipread is critical to our communication, especially when navigating the healthcare system.  HLAA CM has collected some information related to this topic to share.

Guide for Effective Communication in Health Care

HLAA has a website dedicated to this topic with resources on how to communicate with medical professionals, recommendations for medical facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, and guides for patients and providers.  The webpage is:

You can download the complete the guide:

Hearing Review Article: Urge CDC to Emphasize Need for Clear Face Masks

The Hearing Review article from June 9, 2020 is titled “ASHA Urges CDC to Emphasize Need for Clear Face Masks for the Hearing Impaired.”  You can read the article at:

The full ASHA letter can be found at:

Hearing Life Article on See-Through Face Masks

The March/April 2020 edition of HLAA’s Hearing Life magazine includes an article about communication access showing a doctor wearing a see-through surgical mask.  The article is titled, “Necessity and Invention: New Mom Turns Entrepreneur.”  The subject of the article, Anne McIntosh, founded the Safe’N’Clear company in 2012 and created the “Communicator Surgical Mask.” The see-through medical masks were approved by the FDA and started being used in hospitals in 2017.

The Communicator (See-Through Surgical Mask)

You can read more about The Communicator mask at the company website:

The mask came up for discussion at one of the HLAA virtual meetings and someone complained that they were expensive.  The cost was reported as $60 and later clarified to be for a box of 40.  As you can imagine, the masks have become very popular now and are out of stock.  The company is expecting to have more available in July.

HelloMasks (Transparent Face Mask)

Popular Mechanics ran an article on June 10, 2020 titled “These Transparent Face Masks Might Make You Feel Normal Again.”  It describes a mask developed in Switzerland that is completely transparent.  The company HMCARE plans to start selling the new masks in 2021 directly to medical professionals.

You can read the full article at:

The company is a start-up right now.  It is planning to pursue European certification and eventually will pursue FDA approval.  The company website is:

Posted by: hlacentralma | June 12, 2020

These Transparent Face Masks Might Make You Feel Normal Again

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) and the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) have devised a transparent surgical face mask that will “soon be produced on an industrial scale.”
To fabricate them, researchers had to come up with an all-new polymer material.
They say the ability to see facial expressions will lead to more empathic health care providers.

[Read More…]

Posted by: hlacentralma | June 3, 2020

Virtual Webinars for Living with Hearing Loss

We have collected a list of upcoming events for HLAA that are virtual.  These are conducted with captioning, so they are hearing accessible.  The list is in calendar order and then at the bottom are some links where you can check out previous events that were recorded.

Saturday June 6:

HLAA National Virtual Meeting

2-3:30 pm

Topic: Advocacy & Impact:

Effective Communication in Health Care Settings

Saturday June 13:

HLAA Boston Chapter Virtual Meeting

2-4 pm

Topic: Boston Biotech Hearing Research

Akouos and Frequency Therapeutics

Featured in a February Boston Globe article:

Here is the link to the meeting:

Join by phone

+1 347-450-7972 PIN:  580 085 851#

Thursday June 18 and Friday June 19:

Experience HLAA!

Online “Convention” experience

Topics include

  • Opening session (Thursday noon -1)
  • Potential for Regenerative Medicine to Restore Hearing Loss (Thursday 2-3:30)
  • Workplace Gain: A Discussion on Self-Advocacy, Marketing and Navigating the Workplace with a Hearing Loss (Thursday 5-6:30)
  • Research Symposium: The Latest on Tinnitus Research (Friday noon – 1:30, Meet the Scientists and Q&A 2:30-3:30)
  • Hearing Loss and the Health Care System: A Call to Action (Friday 4-5:30)
  • Virtual Exhibit Hall (throughout the Experience HLAA! Event)

There are 3 different sources of virtual HLAA events:

  1. HLAA Educational Webinars and recordings:
  2. HLAA National Virtual Meetings (monthly event)
  3. HLAA Chapter Meetings now being conducted virtually

In addition, there is a special HLAA virtual event June 18-19 to replace the cancelled convention.  The event is free and captioned.

Posted by: hlacentralma | May 20, 2020

HLAA Webinars – Register and Learn

Face Masks and Hearing Loss:
Practical Tips and Strategies

Ellen Lafargue, Au.D. and Carolyn Ginsburg Stern, MBA
Date: Thursday, May 21, 2020
Time: 2 p.m. – 3 p.m. Eastern Time

Don’t miss Thursday’s free captioned webinar on Face Masks and Hearing Loss: Practical Tips and Strategies, presented by Ellen Lafargue, Au.D. and Carolyn Ginsburg Stern, MBA from the Center for Hearing and Communication (CHC).
Click the “Register” button below to attend.Mastering communication while face masks are worn and social distancing is especially difficult for people with hearing loss because of reduced visual and auditory input. We will share practical tips and strategies that can make interactions a little easier and help you feel more in control. We will demonstrate various ways to wear masks comfortably with hearing devices and how to avoid losing them when masks are removed. We will also discuss simple techniques for troubleshooting your hearing aids while in-person hearing care in your area may be limited during the pandemic.

REGISTER for the above webinar.

UPCOMING WEBINAR – To register for this webinar, please click on the topic and follow the directions.

All HLAA webinars are captioned and recorded for future viewing. See a list of all recorded webinars. Just click the “YouTube” button to view the recording.

Registration is required for HLAA webinars. Should you have any questions, please contact
Posted by: hlacentralma | April 25, 2020

Navigating COVID-19 with Hearing Loss

Navigating COVID-19 with Hearing Loss

An expert offers tips for technology and every day advice that might help people with hearing loss when having to distance for COVID-19. Watch a webinar above with Dr. Kevin Franck and Dr. Felipe Santos for more information.

The COVID-19 pandemic is presenting challenges across the country for all individuals. For people with hearing loss, these challenges can be exacerbated given ones they already have to navigate daily.

There are 48 million people in the United States who have hearing loss, with rates increasing with the aging and expanding population. Thirty-three percent of Americans between ages 65-74 and nearly 50 percent of those 75+ have hearing loss, according to the Hearing Health Foundation.

Working in conjunction with a leadership council made up of local hearing loss advocates and business leaders, the Division of Audiology at Mass. Eye and Ear is working to highlight ways in which people with hearing loss can stay socially connected during the pandemic. Here are some tips from Kevin H. Franck, PhD, director of Audiology at Mass. Eye and Ear.

Hearing loss can be isolating; technology may help

Today, most of the country is under stay-at-home orders to reduce the spread of COVID-19. For a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, staying away from others during the coronavirus pandemic, layered on top of hearing loss, can compound the feeling of isolation, according to Dr. Franck.

“Not only do you have hearing loss, which can cause you to miss out on information, but you’re limiting physical contact, which is how people with hearing loss stay sane,” Dr. Franck told Focus. “The term ‘social distancing’ should be changed to ‘physical distancing’ because everyone, especially people with hearing loss, needs to be socially connected now more than ever.”

During this time, technology can be a great resource for staying in touch with loved ones, said Dr. Franck. There are several devices and apps, including speech-to-text, phone call-to-text, and others that amplify sound on a smartphone, tablet or computer, during video conferencing, for instance. Ear Machine and Sonic Cloud are two examples of apps that can be helpful if you have a hearing aid that is not working or if you need to schedule an appointment to be evaluated.

While these apps may not provide a permanent solution for hearing loss, they have the ability to improve immediate access to potentially vital information.

Tips for seeking medical care when hard of hearing

Today, throughout hospitals and outpatient clinics, things are moving so quickly in a heightened environment that communication can be difficult. For people who rely mostly on lip reading, this can present huge challenges.

“If you walk into any hospital today, you’re going to be met by someone with a face mask on,” Dr. Franck pointed out.

He recommends people with hearing loss carry a COVID-19 card when visiting a hospital or clinic. Developed by the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing for health care workers and the public, this card uses icons to help communicate with medical staff. It displays the preferred method of communication (such as apps or an interpreter), symptoms, severity, in addition to other care questions.

Throughout some hospitals, clear masks are increasing in use to help better serve people with hearing loss. At Mass. Eye and Ear, they have been used in operating rooms where patients have to remove their hearing device prior to surgery, and have expanded the supply of clear masks to assist people who rely on speech-reading. These masks do not meet the N95 standard, so may not be suitable for all situations.

Some hospitals, including Mass. Eye and Ear, can hand out an amplification device for extra help upon request.

Many hearing loss physicians are still seeing patients for emergency hearing issues, such as sudden hearing loss. A questionnaire called the Consumer Ear Disease Risk Assessment (CEDRA) might help serve as a guide to inform you if your ears should be checked by a physician. To help determine whether the issue is urgent, it is recommended that you call your doctor immediately.

What if you need help with your hearing device?

For people who rely on devices such cochlear implants or hearing aids, it might feel like an emergency when equipment is acting up and your clinic has reduced services. The Audiology Division at Mass. Eye and Ear is continuing to serve patients with the greatest hearing needs through emergency in-clinic appointments, drop-off and pick-up services, mail-in or drive-by services, and telemedicine consultations.

If you’ve been putting off getting a hearing aid, an appointment in a non-emergency situation may be harder to come by at your local clinic during this time. Dr. Franck then recommends amplification devices known as “hearables,” which are sold online. An audiologist can help provide support to patients using hearables during a telephone consultation. Apps may also deliver immediate assistance while a device is getting repaired.

“We urge anyone with hearing loss who has any questions to check in with an audiologist,” said Dr. Franck. “Our goal is to ensure they are doing all they can to stay connected during the pandemic.”

Other resources

Other resources to assist you during COVID-19 and beyond have been created and compiled by the Hearing Loss Association of America and the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

About Our Expert

Kevin Franck, PhD, MBA, CCC-A is the director of Audiology at Mass. Eye and Ear. 

Due to the global public health concerns surrounding COVID-19 (coronavirus), Mass. Eye and Ear Audiology is currently open for urgent appointments only. To learn more, call 617-573-3266.

If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, contact your primary health care provider. For your safety and the safety of others, please do not come to the emergency department unless you have been instructed to do so.

Saturday, September 12th from 2:00 – 4:00 pm.

Topic: Introduction to Cochlear Implants

Speaker: Caitlin Agreda, Au.D., CCC-A Audiologist UMass Memorial Medical Center

Topic: How to Choose a Cochlear Implant Vendor

Speaker: Ellen Perkins and Barbara Johnson

This program is designed for people who are curious about cochlear implants as a potential solution or just interested in learning what they are about.  Caitlin will present an introduction to cochlear implants focusing on what a cochlear implant is, how it works, and what the process is. Ellen and Barbara will then reprise their popular presentation on how to navigate the vendor promotional fluff and understand the offerings of the 3 cochlear implant manufacturers.

Saturday, November 7th from 2:00 – 4:00 pm
Topic: Are You Listening?

Speaker: Darleen Wilson

On Nov. 7th, the guest speaker will be Ms. Darleen Wilson.  Ms. Wilson is a life-long musician and is actively dealing with the consequences of her own moderate-severe hearing loss. Convinced that there are better solutions for hearing technologies, Wilson undertook a Masters in Human Factors to expand her perspective on product design. She focuses her work on improving hearing products and services.  Wilson serves on the Audiology Leadership Advisory Council for Mass. Eye and Ear (a teaching hospital for Harvard Medical School).


All meetings will be held at the Northborough Library. There will be CART (computer aided real time captioning).
Stay tuned for more details as we  are in the process of contacting/confirming speakers for topics related to Cochlear Implant and Hearing Aid Technology, and Coping with Hearing Loss.
If you have any suggestions for topics and speakers, please let us know.
We are looking forward to seeing all of you!
HLAA Central MA’s steering Committee
Beth Wilson
Margaret Myatt
Gina Constantino
Gloria and Stan Radler
Tina Thompson

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