Introduction: DIY Face Mask for People With Hearing Impairments

We have created see-through masks and a mask-making guide for people with and without access to a sewing machine. Everyone is affected by COVID-19, and we believe that this would especially benefit people with hearing impairments. Americans are not accustomed to masks and associate them with populated areas and high-alert situations. Our goal is to mitigate the anxiety of the current pandemic by offering tutorials for see-through masks and regular masks from household items. Creating a mask can be as simple as having a ‘sewing day’ to tying a clean sock around your face.

According to the CDC, it is not necessary to wear a medical rated mask unless you are going into surgery [1]. Not only is there limited supply, but the CDC acknowledges that people can only limit the spread of the virus. For the general public, the CDC recommends that people use a cloth to cover your face without a filter [2]. It is important to know that gloves and masks do not completely safeguard people from the virus. The best thing people can do is social distancing. Further, US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams outlines how simple it is to make a mask here [2].

Our goal of this project is to remove the barrier of making a mask and allowing everyone to feel comfortable wearing a mask. We want our mask to be accessible to everyone, including people who have hearing impairments, since they are typically excluded from regular masks. On the design side, we want people to have the foundation to create and build on top of our design with whatever material is available to them. Unity is our greatest goal and we plan on doing that one mask at a time.


[1] Center for Devices and Radiological Health. (n.d.). N95 Respirators and Surgical Masks (Face Masks). Retrieved May 2, 2020, from

[2] CDC. (2020, April 3). Recommendation Regarding the Use of Cloth Face Coverings. Retrieved May 2, 2020, from


Our design includes a plastic opening over the mouth to allow others to read their lips and see their facial expressions. It also includes materials that can be found around the home. We use elastic hair ties, paper clips, cotton fabric, and any type of clear plastic that the user would have laying around the home.


Good fit: changing the length of the elastic ties allows the user to make the mask fit snuggly on their face

Fogging up glasses: having the metal nose piece allows the user to block most of the air from coming up. Wore the mask with my glasses on while walking around outside and inside for about 30 minutes and my glasses never fogged up.

Fogging up plastic mouth piece: Again I wore the mask while walking around inside and outside and had my roommate let me know when my masked fogged up when talking to her. There was some fog every once in a while but not enough to where she could not see my mouth at any point in time.

Machine washable: using a ziploc bag for the mouth piece makes it only hand washable, since the plastic would tear to easily. When using a thicker plastic it is machine washable, I washed and dried it and it came out fine.

Easy to make: I can make a mask in an hour, including cutting and gathering materials. I just learned how to sew, so I think I would be considered a beginner. So as long as someone knows how to use a sewing machine they should be able to make it in a hour as well.

Acknowledgments from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:

  • Department of Applied Physical Sciences
  • BeAM
  • Innovate Carolina


  • Cotton Fabric (can be a t-shirt or any other fabric lying around)
  • Two hair ties (or some sort of elastic)
  • Plastic (at least 3'' x 1.5'')
  • 5 paper clips
  • Sewing machine
  • Scissors
  • Ruler

Step 1: Cut Fabric

Cut fabric into 15'' x 7.5''

Fold your piece of fabric in half, so that it is 7.5'' x 7.5''. If your fabric has a pattern then make sure the patterned side is folded inside, so the non-patterned side is facing up on both top and bottom.

Step 2: Create Pocket for Filter

At the top of the folded fabric, measure a 4'' opening in the middle and mark it off. This should be approximately centered along the top edge, as shown in the first photo. Then sew along the top with a 1/2'' seam, but do not sew along the 4'' opening. This will maintain an opening for removing an old filter and inserting a new one.

Step 3: Center the Filter Pocket

Turn the mask inside out (first photo) and then adjust so that the pocket opening is 1/2'' down from the top of the mask (second photo). Sew the left and right side leaving a 1/8'' seam (third photo).

Step 4: Insert Nose Piece

Unfold your paper clip (first photo) and insert it into the pocket opening (second photo) and push it up to the very top (third photo). To keep the paperclip in place sew right below it (fourth photo), making sure the pocket is still functional.

Step 5: Add Pleats

Create 3 pleats each of them 1/2'' wide and use pins to pin them down (first photo). If possible, iron them down, to make it easier to sew. The length of the mask should be 3 1/2'' now. Sew along the sides with a 1/8'' seam (second photo).

Step 6: Cut Out Mouth Piece

Mark off a rectangle in the middle of the mask the size of 3'' x 1 1/2'' (first photo). Then cut out and keep the extra fabric to use later (second photo).

Step 7: Sew in Plastic Mouth Piece

Using a plastic of your choice. Here I used a plastic ziplock bag (first photo), but thicker plastic will also work. Lay it over the cutout rectangle (second photo). Now sew around the rectangle and then cut off extra plastic (third photo).

Step 8: Make Elastic Ties

Cut two hair ties in half (first photo). You may need to cut more of the hair tie off in oder to have a tighter fit. Take extra fabric from where you cut out the mouth piece and cut 4 pieces, each approx 2'' x 1'' (first photo). Take one fabric piece and wrap it around one end of the hair tie (third photo). Sew along the open end of the fabric and then sew through the hair tie, but not completely to the end (fourth photo). You should be able to attach a paper clip through the fabric loop. Then repeat for the other end and the other hair tie.

Step 9: Add Loops to Mask

Take the extra fabric and cut 4 pieces, each one 2'' x 1''. Take one piece and sew one end to the top of the side of the mask (first photo). Then fold the piece over the back and sew that end in place (second photo). Then repeat for the other 3 corners (third photo).

Step 10: Attach Straps

Now attach straps with paper clips and you are finished.