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Guide on handmade clear masks aiding the hearing-impaired released on Japan website

A transparent mask that aids the hearing-impaired is seen in this photo provided by Information Gap Buster. A sponge can also be placed as a nose pad to ensure a better fit.

TOKYO -- A group in Yokohama near the capital has released instructions on how to create your own transparent mask to help those with hearing losses who depend on seeing people's mouth movements to interpret what others are saying during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Information Gap Buster, a nonprofit organization based in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, in eastern Japan, consists of the hearing-impaired and others who face difficulties in communicating. The group introduced a way to make the mask using materials at hand, amid the low distribution of clear masks.

Those who use sign language often also use facial expressions and lip-reading as means of obtaining information. Therefore, sign language interpreters and counsellors for the deaf among other workers needed to remove their masks when interacting with the hearing-impaired, even after the custom of wearing masks became widespread due to the novel coronavirus. Face shields that cover the whole face are said to not be so widely used in the field of welfare.

Under such circumstances, a sign language interpreter encountered feelings of being moved by their companion's thoughtfulness as the interpreter was told, "You don't need to take off your mask." The interpreter was inspired to enable "communication where both parties feel mutually at ease," and came up with the idea of the clear mask while testing the appearance and how well it fits, using 3D masks sold in stores as reference material.

A handmade clear mask, whose instructions on how to make it are shown on the website of Information Gap Buster, is shown in this photo provided by the organization.

The mask is made of either a transparent, flexible card case or plastic file folder, and an elastic band to be used as the string loop. The materials are available at stationery shops, 100-yen shops, and the like. Once the clear card case or folder is cut out along pattern paper and the elastic band is inserted through the punched holes on each side, the clear mask is complete. A sponge can be placed at the bridge of your nose as a nose pad to ensure a better fit, and anti-fog products for eyeglasses can be applied to the inside of the mask to prevent it from clouding up with one's breath. The mask is also convenient for carrying around as it can be folded.

Masaaki Yoshida, a pharmacist and member of the group, used the mask during work, inviting the response, "I can tell very well what you're saying since I can see mouth movements." Another person added, "It's so transparent that one can't tell you're wearing a mask, depending on the angle." The special masks have been used in other settings including a press conference for the mayor of the western Japan city of Imabari, Ehime Prefecture.

The mask has also gathered favorable responses from those who used it, such as "It fits perfectly," and "It doesn't feel suffocating even without the nose pad." Yoshida commented, "I would like for each and every person to think about what they can do to prevent infections. It would be great if a transparent mask for medical use is developed in the future."

The pattern paper for cutting out your own clear mask, as well as instructions in Japanese, English, and Nepali can be found at Information Gap Buster's website at http://www.infogapbuster.org (in Japanese).

(Japanese original by Hitomi Tanimoto, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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