'They can lip read:' HEAR Wisconsin offers special masks to assist with communication amid COVID-19

WEST ALLIS -- Staying informed and safe during the coronavirus pandemic is challenging for everyone, but especially those who have lost their ability to hear. Thankfully though, HEAR Wisconsin is giving them the tools to ensure they don't miss a word.

COVID-19 concerns have complicated everyday tasks like going to the grocery store, or simply having a close conversation with someone. For those who have lost the ability to hear, the masks that keep us safe have prevented them from being able to communicate.

"With the virus going on, and the wearing of the masks, I was frustrated as to, how am I going to communicate?" said Margaret Calteaux.

Margaret Calteaux

Calteaux was born with hearing loss, but was still able to communicate effectively until masks began getting in the way of her ability to read lips.

"I do try to calmly say, 'Sorry, if we need to communicate, we have to find a way where I can lip read,'" said Calteaux.

She's been able to work around this by writing notes, or showing people messages on her phone.

"Many people were acceptable, but there were some who were kind of just a little nervous," said Calteaux. "And this makes a world of difference for someone who has a hearing loss because they can see my mouth now, and they can lip read what I am saying to them."

HEAR Wisconsin in West Allis has been helping those with hearing loss for nearly 100 years.

"We like to call it the 'wow factor,'" said Laurie Flores with HEAR Wisconsin. "They come in and they are a bit overwhelmed."

Their help doesn't stop with special masks.

"The products are designed for the deaf and hard of hearing community," said Flores. "It is not limited to that, however. Anyone can come in and purchase the equipment."

For Calteaux, the tools allow her to stay informed, and safe. She offered a message to others who may be experiencing the same struggles amid the pandemic.

"You're not alone, and we're in this together," said Calteaux.