Proud to be from Pittsburgh: Clear masks helping those with hearing loss

Proud to be from Pittsburgh: Western Pa. School for the Deaf

PITTSBURGH — Classes are back in person at Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf. Senior student Oliva, 17, said through an interpreter she learns better with in-class instruction.

“It’s very shocking and I have mixed emotions about it. Everybody’s wearing a mask. It’s so different, but it’s a good experience to be back in school,” said Oliva.

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126 of the 180 students returned five days a week to the Pittsburgh campus. School officials said many students prefer classroom interaction.

While masks are a requirement, it’s been a challenge for those with hearing loss like Destiny, a junior.

“In general in life when I see a worker wearing a clear mask, I can understand them better because I rely on lip reading so much,” said Destiny.

Steve Farmer, the school’s CEO, decided the school would use clear masks for all the teachers and encourages others to try a clear mask. Ultimately, the choice is left up to the students.

“You can see those facial expressions and a variety of motion emotions that appear on the face. Things like cues and in sign language is certainly helpful for children who are hard of hearing, to read lips through a clear mask, so it helps tremendously,” said Farmer.

Both students feel the clear masks could help them even feel normal again.

“I think having a clear mask is not only helping us as deaf people communicate, but like bring back more of the normalcy to see everyone’s face,” said Destiny.

Another benefit of the clear masks is seeing something many of us don’t even know we miss.

“You can see people trying to smile,” said Oliva. “I can actually tell but I don’t see the actual smile. So it’s great to see someone smiling through clear mask.”

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