Even before the pandemic, masks hampered communication for patients with hearing impairment. An experience MSK nurse Brianna DiTullio had with an immunocompromised patient in 2019 inspired her to research the use of clear masks. She recently shared her results at the Oncology Nursing Society’s Annual Conference. They were reported by Oncology Nursing News.
In her study, DiTullio first surveyed 6 patients with hearing impairment to establish a baseline for their speech perception. Staff members wore clear masks when meeting with the patients over two days, after which the patients took a follow-up survey. The results were notable: before the switch to clear masks, 67% of the patients reported often having difficulty understanding staff. After the intervention, this number decreased to 33% of the patients. Patients also reported an increase in trust levels of hospital staff.
DiTullio recommends that hospitals invest in clear masks to allow for communication with this significant patient population.