face masks

Hearing Impaired Physical Therapist Gets Surprise With See-Through Masks To Help Her Read Lips

Susan Adams is hearing impaired, so these masks make it possible for her to engage with her patients again.

NBC Universal, Inc.

If there is one thing we have learned over the last few months it's how difficult it is to communicate when you can't see someone's lips.

And that's exactly what Susan Adams relies on because she is hearing impaired. 

Adams has been a physical therapist for 30 years, but when she learned the Mission Hospital Physical Therapy Center would again see patients in person, she panicked. Under COVID-19 rules, everyone would have to wear a mask. 

“I will be honest with you. There was a day that I just kind of cried and Michelle saw that, because I realized how vulnerable I am. And then from that point on I told myself, you know what, I'm going to find a way to get around it,” Adams said.

Michelle Darrow is her manager. 

“You wouldn't even know she has a hearing impairment 99% of the time and for her to finally realize, ‘I have a disability and I don't know if I can continue,’ I'm like, that can't happen,” Darrow said.

So Darrow went to work. She cut up a shower curtain, had fabric donated to the cause and made enough see-through masks to give to each of Adams’ patients.

During a work meeting, Darrow and her colleagues all put on the new masks to surprise Adams. She looked overjoyed to see the masks and burst into tears. 

“We love you Susan,” the group said as she took in the sight of the new masks.

Adams believes many people may be struggling now to talk through covered lips and mouths. She, however, has found a window of opportunity. 

"Just repeat and just think about making their day a little bit easier,” Adams advised.

If there's one thing she hopes comes of this, it's that people learn how to communicate even better.

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