For people who rely heavily on visual communication—including the deaf and hard of hearing, children, and patients with limited English proficiency—surgical face masks can pose an isolating obstacle, making it impossible to communicate with doctors and nurses during crucial moments of a procedure and potentially leading to medical error.
Enter ClearMask, a transparent surgical mask that does its job blocking germs and fluids—without blocking faces. The brainchild of a Johns Hopkin team of graduate students and alumni (and an alum of Gallaudet University), ClearMask in April won the top funding prize of $25,000 from the Johns Hopkins Social Innovation Lab, a startup accelerator program. The team has engineered its product to be fog-resistant, breathable and more comfortable, it says, than the standard surgical mask. The team hopes to submit its final design for FDA approval in August and put its product through clinical trials early next year.