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Read my lips: Clear masks work well at MTSU Speech...

Read my lips: Clear masks work well at MTSU Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic

Student clinicians at MTSU's Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic pose for a group photo wearing their clear masks that enable clients to see how their lips move. Front row, l to r, Maggie Waller, Lexie Daddone, Amber Hayden, Rena Bamerini, Alana Crenshaw, and Delaney Freeze. Back row, l to r, Emily Hines, Lindsey Lamb, Avery Kaumayer, MTSU mascot Lightning, Kaylee Skipper, Madison Hoback, and Lana Chaney. (MTSU Photo by Andy Heidt)

For the hearing-impaired, lip-reading in a society full of mask-wearers is practically impossible.

However, the MTSU Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic refuses to let COVID-19 conquer their work. Since September, the staffers and student clinicians at the clinic on the first floor of the university’s Alumni Memorial Gym have worn clear plastic masks and face shields.

Madison Hoback, right, a student clinician at MTSU's Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic, wears a clear mask while helping client Riggs King, who is wearing a face shield. The clear protective devices help clients see the clinician's lips move and vice versa. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

Madison Hoback, right, a student clinician at MTSU’s Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic, wears a clear mask while helping client Riggs King, who is wearing a face shield. The clear protective devices help clients and clinicians see each other’s lips move so they can have a conversation. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

“In order to do speech therapy, they have to be able to see your mouth,” said clinic coordinator Elizabeth Smith. “Therapists use a variety of clear masks.”

Elizabeth Smith

The masks purchased by the clinic are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and while Smith said they are not particularly comfortable, they don’t fog up when users exhale as much as other clear masks.

She said no one, including the clinic’s youngest clients, has refused to wear a mask.

“Even the little ones, as soon as they come in, they get their temperature taken,” Smith said. “They go to the bathroom. They wash their hands. They put their masks on.”

Madison Hoback, a speech/language pathology and audiology major from Nashville, Tennessee, is one of the student clinicians who has adjusted to working while wearing the masks. She works with Riggs King, a first grader who struggles with language comprehension.

Rena Bamerini, back left, and Delaney Freeze, student clinicians, wear clear face masks while assisting "Courtney," a pseudonym to protect the client's identity. The MTSU Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic purchased clear masks and face shields for their clients and clinicians so that they could see each other's lips. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

Rena Bamerini, back left, and Delaney Freeze, student clinicians, wear clear face masks while assisting “Courtney,” a pseudonym to protect the client’s identity. The MTSU Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic purchased clear masks and face shields for their clients and clinicians so that they could see each other’s lips. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

“I think it’s easier with the clear masks … because then he can see and hear better,” Hoback said. “I think that the actual coverings kind of muffle your voice.”

Because of the pandemic, the clinic could not operate in the spring and summer. Smith and her colleagues spent the summer designing protocols for opening safely and hygienically for fall 2020.

Smith said all their clients, with the exception of two who with health concerns, decided to come back in the fall. All the student clinicians returned to the clinic.

“Every single one of them wanted to return because they know that this is a unique opportunity,” Smith said.

For the sake of establishing a comfortably mask-free rapport, clinicians and clients were outside and six feet apart for their first day together in September to more easily see each other’s entire faces.

“Our students have been wonderful,” Smith said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them. They have done everything we have asked them to do.”

For more information about the Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic at MTSU, go to www.mtsu.edu/programs/communication-disorders, or contact Smith at 615-898-2662 or Elizabeth.Smith@mtsu.edu.

— Gina Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)

Lindsey Lamb, back left, and Emily Hines, student clinicians, assist "Keith," a pseudonym to protect the client's identity, while wearing clear face shields at the Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic at MTSU. The clear masks help clients see the clinicians' lips move and vice versa. (MTSU Photo by Andy Heidt).

Student clinicians Lindsey Lamb, center, and Emily Hines help a client while wearing clear face shields at the Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic at MTSU. The clear masks help clients and clinicians see each other’s lips move so they can have a conversation. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

Student clinician Amber Hayden, left, demonstrates the clear plastic mask she wears while helping clients at MTSU's Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic. MTSU's “mask-ot,” Lightning, is wearing a clear mask, as well. (MTSU Photo by Andy Heidt).

Student clinician Amber Hayden, left, demonstrates the clear plastic mask she wears while helping clients at MTSU’s Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic. MTSU’s “mask-ot,” Lightning, is wearing a clear mask as well. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

Student clinicians at MTSU's Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic pose for a group photo wearing their clear masks that enable clients to see how their lips move. Front row, l to r, Maggie Waller, Lexie Daddone, Amber Hayden, Rena Bamerini, Alana Crenshaw, and Delaney Freeze. Back row, l to r, Emily Hines, Lindsey Lamb, Avery Kaumayer, MTSU mascot Lightning, Kaylee Skipper, Madison Hoback, and Lana Chaney. (MTSU Photo by Andy Heidt)

Student clinicians at MTSU’s Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic pose for a group photo wearing their clear masks that enable clients to see how their lips move. On the front row, from left, are Maggie Waller, Lexie Daddone, Amber Hayden, Rena Bamerini, Alana Crenshaw and Delaney Freeze. On the back row are, from left, Emily Hines, Lindsey Lamb, Avery Kaumayer, MTSU mascot Lightning, Kaylee Skipper, Madison Hoback and Lana Chaney. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)


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