Impact of Masks on Social Interaction

Impact of Masks on Social Interaction Impact of Masks on Social Interaction

August 31, 20202 min read

In the midst of the current pandemic, wearing masks in public has become the norm. But masks have presented further challenges for in-person social interaction. The deaf community has to adapt despite losing cues from facial expressions and the ability to lipread.

According to Heidi Rose, PhD, professor and chair of the communication department, “most people take communication for granted.” Simple things, such as seeing facial expressions are crucial to fully understanding each other. “We get a lot of cues from voice (tone), inflection, but the face communicates so much,” said Rose. For instance, new relationships through face coverings may become difficult to develop. “If you don’t know them, you miss a lot; in a classroom or work situation, until you know them well it creates a big barrier.”

Seeing the face is a major barrier in understanding speech in the deaf community. Rose, who has written and researched communication in the deaf community, sees clear masks as a solution. “Now there’s a market for them; they help facilitate facial expression; it helps you feel closer to someone,” Rose said. These masks, which have clear plastic windows, allow for more understanding.

The key Rose emphasizes is to positively adapt to new communication challenges. Clear masks could be a step toward shaping the future of communication. “Instead of lamenting the losses, focus more on adaptability; what we recognize as essential to good communication and how we overcome these barriers,” Rose added.

As history has proved, the way we communicate is constantly adapting. “We always evolve in interesting ways,” said Rose. “The invention of the telephone didn’t stop neighbors from talking to each other.”

To speak with Rose, email

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