A possible solution has been developed by a San Francisco nurse.
RELATED: Glasses fogging up because of your COVID-19 face mask? We're here to help
Face masks have created challenges for many to communicate clearly, whether or not hearing impairment is an issue. Just ask Bennet Harvey, who was dealing with some workers on a home improvement project.
"They broke up some concrete I didn't want them to because I had missed or misunderstood something they said, and they misunderstood me," he said.
It's a growing problem that audiologists say is caused by the muffling of voices through fabric. Steve Eagon directs sales development at Eargo, a hearing aid company based in the South Bay.
"What happens is that our ability to even more finely distinguish the high-pitched parts of speech, so the consonants like s, th, f, sh... if we say the word ship, for example, that could be misconstrued a number of ways," he explained.
A possible solution is in development -- a medical-grade mask with a transparent panel that allows a speaker's mouth to be visible. People with hearing loss often rely on lip reading to clarify what is being said. The see-through mask also provides visual feedback about the speaker's personality or emotional support.
RELATED: Bay Area communities teaming up to refurbish N95 masks for use in senior centers, shelters
"The patient is more compliant when they feel the caregiver is genuine and empathetic and cares about them," said San Francisco registered nurse Jeanne Hahne. "The lack of communication or miscommunication is one that can cause serious medical problems."
She developed the FaceView Mask. A research grant from the National Institutes of Health has looked into the benefits. With masks widely used by the public and by medical staff, she believes the see-through panel addresses both hearing difficulty and human connection.
"Obviously with COVID-19, people are sick and critically ill, and they need to have their family members be able to have those moments where they connect emotionally," she said.
The transparent masks have been tested by surgeons. Orders are pouring in as plans are underway to manufacture them domestically.
In the meantime, it's suggested for those unable to hear people in masks to let them know you can't understand them. And to consider taking along a notepad to write down critical details to prevent misunderstanding.
RELATED: How to make face masks from materials found at home
If you have a question or comment about the coronavirus pandemic, submit yours via the form below or here. Get the latest news, information and videos about the novel coronavirus pandemic here RELATED STORIES & VIDEOS:
- COVID-19 Help: Comprehensive list of resources, information
- When will the San Francisco Bay Area reopen? Track progress on 6 key metrics to reopening here
- Life after COVID-19: Here's what restaurants, gyms will look like
- Live updates about coronavirus outbreak in US, around the world
- INTERACTIVE TIMELINE: How close was CA to becoming a NY-level crisis?
- What will it take to get a COVID-19 vaccine and how will it be made?
- How California's COVID-19 cases stack up against other hot spot states
- Everything you need to know about the Bay Area's shelter-in-place order
- Coronavirus Timeline: Tracking major moments of COVID-19 pandemic in San Francisco Bay Area/
- List: Where can I get tested for COVID-19 in the Bay Area?
- COVID-19 Diaries: Personal stories of Bay Area residents during novel coronavirus pandemic
- Coronavirus Doctor's Note: Dr. Alok Patel gives his insight into COVID-19 pandemic
- What does COVID-19 do to your body and why does it spread so easily?
- WATCH: 'Race & Coronavirus: A Bay Area Conversation' virtual town hall about COVID-19 impact on Asian American community
- WATCH: 'Race & Coronavirus: A Bay Area Conversation' virtual town hall about COVID-19 impact on African American community
- WATCH: 'Race & Coronavirus: A Bay Area Conversation' virtual town hall about COVID-19 impact on Latino community
- Here's how shelter in place, stay at home orders can slow spread of COVID-19
- Symptoms, prevention, and how to prepare for a COVID-19 outbreak in the US
- List of stores, companies closing due to coronavirus pandemic
- No masks but here are 100+ products that may help protect you against novel coronavirus germs
- Here's a look at some of history's worst pandemics that have killed millions