Eloise Schwarz is the chapter leader of the HLAA Sun City Center Chapter. She began making clear masks to help those with hearing loss communicate.

The mission of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) is to open the world of communication to people with hearing loss by providing information, education, support and advocacy.

Eloise Schwarz is the chapter leader of the HLAA Sun City Center Chapter. She moved to Florida about a year ago.

“My plan was to enjoy retirement from nursing and being away from the cold weather of Wisconsin,” Schwarz said. “Our daughter and son-in-law live here and that, too, was a motivator to come on down to enjoy the tropics and sunshine. All well and good, I was busy learning how to blend in as a new Floridian, but the COVID virus got me as it has for the whole hearing loss population.”

Schwarz learned late in life that she was hard of hearing at birth.

“I was never treated until I was in my 50s, which is difficult for a brain to functionally hear well,” Schwarz said. “I have been fitted with numerous hearing aids to help me hear and deal with the multiple brain anomalies that go with hearing loss, like tinnitus, vertigo, hyperacusis and the like. I joined the Hearing Loss Association of America organization and soon found that I was not only a member but also a leader at the local and state levels.”

The new normal of wearing a mask interfered with what Schwarz was trying to do and learn.

“How was I to follow anything if I could not understand anything?” Schwarz said. “If the full-on masks did not work, then making windowed masks was the answer. I would ask for assistance in making them. I am a seamstress as a hobby and do own an old sewing machine. Asking for funding to underwrite this endeavor would help to make this work. Surprisingly, I received not one grant, but two to help pay for this great act of kindness for our hard of hearing people, and their caregivers here in Sun City Center.”

Schwarz put a request out to the Sun City Center community for sewers, ordered materials online and soon she was on her way making the clear masks.

“Although they take some time to make, they came with love and understanding that they would allow the user to smile, to see each other’s mouth for talking and the elastic would circle the head instead of behind the ears,” Schwarz said. “This saves the hearing aids and/or the implants from falling off the head when removing the mask. Everyone can now see me speak and smile at them as well as inquire about how they, too, can receive these unique masks.”

If you are interested in getting a clear mask, you can contact Schwarz at Eloise6376@gmail.com. If you would like to learn more about the Hearing Loss Association of America, you can visit its website at www.hearingloss.org.