Taiwan developing special masks to help those with hearing loss

A teacher at Dandelion Hearing and Language Association wears a partially transparent mask in class/ Image from the association's Facebook page

TAIPEI (CNA) — The widespread wearing of masks in Taiwan has helped prevent the spread of COVID-19, but it has also negated a method of communication for people who are hard of hearing — lip reading.

That may soon change, however, as manufacturers in Taiwan work on a solution by developing a partially transparent mask, with plans to mass-produce the product next year.

Mask manufacturers in Taiwan first took notice of the issue when Hsieh Li-fang (謝莉芳), president of the Dandelion Hearing and Language Association, began spreading awareness of the problem, Huang Po-hsiung (黃博雄) told CNA on Sunday.

According to Huang, who works at the Taiwan Textile Research Institute (TTRI), Hsieh first contacted the Ministry of Health and Welfare and then Legislator Liu Chien-kuo (劉建國), who helped arrange a meeting with ministry officials, the TTRI and mask producers.

Taiwan Comfort Champ Manufacturing Co., one of the largest mask manufacturers in Taiwan, agreed to take on the project, Huang said, and the company later contacted NCM Nonwoven Converting Machinery Co., which specializes in mask production units, to join in.

In mid-July, hand-made prototypes of the partially transparent masks were produced, and the companies, working through the Dandelion Hearing and Language Association, invited people who have hearing impairments to try them and provide feedback, Huang said.

According to Huang, the two manufacturers are still finalizing the machines that will be used to make the masks, with plans to mass-produce them next year.

When the masks are available, they will help those with hearing loss who use lip reading to communicate, said Huang, who hoped they can be widely adopted.