YORK, Pa. — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said for months that wearing masks is vital to reducing the spread of COVID-19. However, masks can come with some serious downsides, especially for the 10 million Americans who are hard of hearing.
"Not only is it scary, it's dangerous," said Joanna Kopinetz. Like many people who have trouble hearing, Joanna relies on reading lips to be able to hear. The first time she went to the grocery store when masks were first mandated, she found herself unable to read lips and overwhelmed with anxiety.
"It's dangerous because people who don't know us get angry at us. I've had more than one person shove me with a cart or something because they're telling me to move and I'm already not hearing half of what's going on around me," she said.
Scared and frustrated, Joanna said she needed to do something and fast. If she couldn't read lips, she would at least let people know she couldn't hear them. She bought lots of different window masks and made sure to label them all to let people know she can't hear very well.
Joanna isn't alone. In the last 2 months, the demand for window masks has skyrocketed.
Abby Armijo is President of ADCO Hearing and after realizing the need for clear masks, she got right to work, hand sewing them with her mom in her kitchen. They started with 150 masks and when they were all sold by the following morning, she knew they were going to need to expand.
"So now we have 3 large scale manufacturing facilities and we're making thousands and thousands of masks and we are always sold out. By wearing a mask that has a see through panel, you can have an effective conversation with a human being and they can see you smile and you can still be safe in that moment."
Something Abby says could also prove to be extremely important if kids go back to school this year. "This way you can see the mouth of the student or child and the kids can have conversations with one another and the teachers can see the mouths of their students. You shouldn't have to choose between safety and having effective communication," Armijo said.
FOX43 found lots of companies that are making communication window masks, and the price averages anywhere from 10 dollars to 30. If you're up for being unique, you can even have one specially made for you on the craft site Etsy. To check out the masks from Armijo's company, ADCO Hearing, click here.