New Normal of Masks Is an ‘Added Barrier' for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Community

"We have no other way if we can't hear and we can't see the words being formed on the mouth. It's a huge challenge," an American Sign Language expert said

French leather creator Anissa Mekrabech, 30 year-old, wearing the protective face mask she created for the deaf and the hearing-impaired

No outfit is complete without a mask these days.

Recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and sometimes required by businesses, face coverings have become a new social standard in many parts of America. But while masks serve as barriers to the spread of COVID-19, they've also become an additional barrier in communicating for those who are deaf and hard of hearing.

"The best word to describe it would be a challenge," Brenda Schertz, a senior lecturer of American Sign Language at Cornell University, said in an ASL-interpreted phone call with NBC News. With 48 million Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing, according to a 2011 Johns Hopkins University study, the problem affects a significant part of the population on a daily level.

"Going into the grocery story or the bank or really any other public place, we are heavily dependent on facial expression and visual cues on peoples' faces, and some of us can lip-read ... and no longer do we have access to that, because everyone has masks on."

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