Good Question: Why aren’t there more see-through face masks? |

Good Question: Why aren’t there more see-through face masks?

Brennan Somers
Updated: May 05, 2020 10:28 AM
Created: May 05, 2020 04:20 AM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Looking ahead, one thing we still don’t know is how long we should be wearing masks in public in the future.

It is a concern for members of the deaf and hard of hearing community, who depend on reading lips in their every day lives. See-through masks are nearly impossible to find, so why aren't there more?

News10NBC’s Brennan Somers spoke with Gary Behm from the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at RIT, who's been a pioneer in the search for a solution.

“Honestly, 15 years ago when I shared this there were a lot of people that didn't care about this,” Behm said about his days as an engineer at IBM.

He came across the problem while working in a clean-room environment. Everyone had to wear a mask, preventing him from reading lips and knowing what was going on.

“We'd make our own mask but it didn't really work too well because of the breathing, that would take place,” Behm said. “ After a few minutes of talking, there would be a lot of fog on the mask.”

After testing one mask after another, Behm starting making headway to find a product that works for clean rooms and hospitals. He filed a patent but ran into roadblocks with manufacturers.

His biggest hurdle? Funding.

“That's always something that's come up, is that how can we sell millions of these to make a profit,” Behm asked. “And if that see-through mask is five cents more than the cloth mask, it might be actually too expensive.”

Currently, there is a demand for millions of see-through masks in hospitals and everyday life. A college student in Kentucky recently made headlines by starting the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Mask Project.

Days later, the orders came in from all over the country.

The DHH project can't keep up with demand. So, the group posted DIY instructions that others have followed, including RIT student Julia Bartsch.

Bartsch has made her own version and is sharing it with others.

While there are companies who make these masks and sell them online, chances are they are sold out, or they're saving the products strictly for doctors and nurses during this pandemic.

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