OTTAWA -- Public health officials recommend the use of a mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, but it has created a challenge for those that are hearing impaired and rely on lip-reading.

Jade Blanchette works in a salon as a hair stylist, “I love working, I love working on hair.”

She hopes to return to work soon, once salons are allowed to open in Ontario. However, with everyone now wearing masks, it poses a new challenge to Blanchette.

“Words do not come through my implants, so I just read their lips all the time.”

She was born hearing impaired, and now relies on a Cochlear Implant and lip reading. Like many in her situation, communicating with someone with a mask on is not easy.

“It’s really made it very, very difficult for people with hearing loss to be able to communicate effectively,” explains Marilyn Kingdon of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association.

She says that the association is supportive of the recommendation for everyone to wear masks when physical distancing is not possible, and suggests communicating using technology or an old-fashioned pencil and paper.

“Identify to the person that you’re communicating with that you do have hearing loss, and figure out what kind of strategies work the best in the situation - communication is a two-way street.”

Max Cucchiella has a possible solution to enable that communication, “This is one that I just re-modified.”

He put his construction company on hold to make personal protective equipment, and through the COMO Foundation is making masks with a clear vinyl insert - making lip reading possible.

“I thought it was just hand signs - I never thought it was lip reading, I’m glad we were able to do something for this part of the community.”

The COMO foundation is donating the masks free of charge. You can contact them through their Facebook page or sending them an e-mail: the