26 Sept 2022

Concern for Waterford deaf people over mandatory face masks rule

Concern for Waterford deaf people over mandatory face masks rule

Chime has expressed concern over mandatory rule on face masks for people who are deaf

The new mandatory rules on face coverings on public transport is a welcome announcement and gives clarity on when face masks should be worn, however, it creates significant communication barriers for people who rely on lip reading.

That’s according to Chime, the national charity for deafness and hearing loss.

The charity has written to the National Public Health Emergency Team, asking them to consider face shields as an acceptable face covering for use by the public and in particular by healthcare workers

“Chime fully recognises the value of face coverings to prevent the spread of Covid-19. However, the use of face masks in particular, creates significant communication challenges for people who are deaf and hard of hearing," says Chime head of advocacy Brendan Lennon. 

“Our charity is aware of instances where patients did not understand communications from healthcare workers due to the wearing of face masks. Many members of the public, including many we suspect have undiagnosed hearing loss, have remarked to us in recent weeks how they have found it more difficult to have conversations due to people wearing face coverings.

“Therefore, we are asking the National Public Health Emergency Team to consider transparent face shields as an acceptable face covering for use by the public on public transport but also by healthcare workers when seeing someone who is deaf or hard of hearing. We believe that this would help ease communication barriers because lipreading will be possible.”

Personal experience of Chime service users

Chime service users have outlined the difficulties face masks create for people who are deaf and hard of hearing.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has been especially difficult for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. The use of face masks makes me feel even more isolated because I cannot lip read, which means I cannot have a conversation with someone. It makes life more difficult, so I’m more reluctant to go out and about," one person says. 

Another adds: “I have experienced difficulty going to the pharmacy to collect prescriptions because the use of face masks makes it difficult for me to communicate with my pharmacist. If transparent face shields were used by healthcare workers, it would make communication much easier and lessen the feelings of isolation deaf and hard of hearing people are feeling during the pandemic.”

Share a Smile fundraising campaign

As part of its efforts to highlight the challenges created by face masks for people who are deaf and hard of hearing, Chime has launched a fundraising campaign. The Share a Smile campaign encourages people to upload to social media a smiling selfie, ideally wearing a face mask, to demonstrate the challenge of seeing people’s emotions, facial expressions and lips while wearing a mask.

People who upload a selfie are asked to use the #ShareASmile hashtag and then text CHIME to 50300 and donate €4 (€3.60 will go to Chime) so that Chime can continue to provide advice, care and support to those impacted by deafness or hearing loss.

Chime is encouraging any person with hearing loss who needs support to reach out for assistance. Chime’s support line can be contacted on 1800 256 257, email: or text 087-9221046.

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