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Clear face masks to be trialled to support people with hearing loss

Clear face masks are being trialled across the Health Board to support better care for people with certain conditions such as hearing loss and dementia. 

The masks are see-through and have an anti-fogging barrier to ensure the face and mouth are always visible to help health care professionals communicate better with their patients.

The masks are being provided by US-based company ClearMasks. Around 250,000 masks will delivered to hospitals and social care providers across the UK through the Department of Health and Social Care over the next few weeks as part of the trial.

Kathryn Davies, who is a Senior Audiology Assistant at Wrexham Maelor Hospital, has welcomed the introduction of the masks.

She said: “Since I was a child I have never had hearing on my right side and I have only 40 per cent hearing on my left side.

“Due to the pandemic, myself and all my colleagues wear face masks at work and that has made it difficult for me to communicate with them.

“My duties at work have also changed as I haven’t felt confident enough to communicate with the patients with a mask.

“I was delighted to hear we are now able to access the clear face masks – this will not only enable me to feel more confident at work and communicate better with my colleagues but this will greatly benefit our patients.”

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board Audiology department were the first clinicians in the UK to test the clear masks, as part of an award winning innovation project funded by Awyr Las, North Wales' local NHS charity.

Dr Sarah Bent, Principal Clinical Scientist in Audiology, who has been delighted to involve her colleagues across North Wales in the work, has led the project.

She said: “Our Audiologists recognised the need for clear face masks back in April 2020, so we pitched the concept at the M-Sparc Health Hack and received an award of £2,500 from Awyr Las.

“Since then, we have been testing different options suitable for lip-reading and seeing the face, and are due to publish our results soon.

“We are now working with companies across Wales and England to design and develop different options suitable for health and social care. We are delighted that the Clear Masks have been approved for use during the pandemic and will now be available to trial throughout the NHS. We hope many other options, including those made in Wales, will soon follow.”