Sophomores share new invention, face masks for hard of hearing


Photo courtesy of The Daily Pilot

TAKING A POSITIVE STANCE (left to right): Sophomore Maggie Dietrick, eighth grader Kate Dietrick, eighth grader Izzy Dastgheib, and sophomore Hannah Dastgheib pose wearing their invention: Read My Lips Masks

Catherine Eastman, Staff Reporter

In light of these tough and unprecedented times due to the coronavirus outbreak, four girls, sophomores Maggie Dietrick and Hannah Dastgheib and their younger sisters, eighth graders Kate Dietrick and Izzy Dastgheib, came together to create something that would have a positive impact as well as hopefully brighten the lives of those who are hard of hearing, healthcare workers, and everyone who has been wearing masks over the past few months. These girls combined their creativity and empathetic hearts to invent what they call “read my lips masks”.

These masks are unlike others because they are created to include a plastic window where the mouth is located in order to allow people to read lips and see the expression on each other’s faces. Similar to many other masks, this style is made with an elastic that allows users to pull the fabric over their nose. However, this creative mask specifically includes a clear window that is made with recyclable plastic. They have also designed them in three different sizes – small, medium, and large and use a variety of different fabrics that offer a choice of patterns and colors.   

Both Maggie and Kate Dietrick were born congenitally deaf and sometimes rely on reading lips to understand what people are saying. The success of their product and the accomplishment of all their hard work has led to so much positivity and pride for the girls. This product is unique because it has been created by individuals who know what it is like to be deaf during a global pandemic where everyone is forced to wear masks covering their mouths. 

“I feel like the mask just helps include everyone and being deaf shouldn’t be a barrier between being able to understand,” Maggie Dietrick said. 

Dietrick and Dastgheib first noticed the struggle of wearing fabric masks when the two were using FaceTime while Dastgheib was wearing her mask. Dietrick was unable to understand what Hannah was saying and felt the frustration of communicating through masks.

Within the first couple weeks of quarantine, the girls came up with the idea and started to put it into action. Through Hannah’s mother, they were put in contact with seamstresses who specialized in making quinceañera and wedding dresses. Immediately the seamstresses agreed to aid them with the project. 

The Dietricks and Dastgheibs created a GoFundMe account that they linked with their Instagram account. The first goal was to raise $2,000 so they promoted their product through social media and were able to reach more than their second goal of $4,500. This recently launched product achieved more than their goal in under 10 days.

“It was a week of us figuring out the logistics of it…[creating] a prototype [that] we really liked because it was double layered and durable and fit to put in the washing machine, so it was something we could be proud of,” said Hannah Dastgheib. 

 The finished product has been delivered to John Tracy Clinic, one of the world’s leading audiology centers, and the Harbor Day school – Maggie and Hannah’s alma mater. 

“When we talked to John and Tracy about the mask, they were over to moon because they were trying to figure out a way to wear masks and talk to the hearing impaired…I just met a girl the other day who we gave the mask to and she started crying because the masks meant the world to her,” mother of Maggie and Kate, Ellen Dietrick said. 

These unsure times have led to people not taking into consideration all the different scenarios where some people may be struggling more than others right now. 

“It’s important to make sure their (the hard of hearing community) needs are met because so many other groups are getting support during covid-19 and it’s just because they have to let people receive treatment and complete necessary tasks and return to their jobs,” Hannah Dastghieb said.

The success of their product and the accomplishment of all their hard work has led to so much positivity and pride for the girls, especially Maggie and Kate Dietrick. 

“I think it’s just a good feeling because I want to help the most people I can… I just want people to not go through the same thing that I do, not being able to understand so I want them to be able to have good feelings and not feel like they don’t belong,” Maggie Dietrick said. 

They hope to further integrate their invention into people’s lives today and make sure everyone that needs it, has access to the product. The girls have reached out to social media influencers in order to spread the word and include everyone in their mission to spread smiles. 

 “It’s really rewarding being able to help others during this time and use all the extra free time we have… to be able to give back and then we are also really grateful for… supporters and best friends that have helped us because we wouldn’t be able to do it without them and their support and it’s been really fun to work together – all four of us,” Hannah Dastgheib said.

Ultimately they just want to make a change and protect those who haven’t been able to receive the help they need. 

“It’s good to see the positive effect it’s having and how many people have realized that they need this product to understand, it’s not just for the hard of hearing. It’s also for people who just can’t understand with the masks and it’s easier to read people’s lips and helps with the dehumanization of people’s smiles,” Maggie Dietrick said.

SPREAD SMILES: Elina (cousin of the Dastgheib sisters) brings happiness into the new normal we are faced with by smiling big in her mask. (Elina (cousin of the Dastgheib sisters) brings happiness into the new normal we are faced wPhoto courtesy of Maggie Dietrick)
MAKING A DIFFERENCE: On April 28th, Minerva Alvarez, one of the seamstresses, makes the masks by replicating the original prototype. (Photo courtesy of Bita Bageri)
HELPING OTHERS: On May 16th, 30 Read My Lips Masks were delivered to the University of Southern California Childhood Communication Center that helps deaf children and offers speech therapy.
(Photo courtesy of Bita Bageri)