Masks make it more difficult to hear what the wearer is saying and impossible for those who rely on lip reading. The ability to read facial expressions also is crucial, particularly for those in fields such as education, health care and travel, as most communication is nonverbal.

“When you think about interactions in a work environment, and the people who might be … relying on lips to read expressions and understand day-to-day work, that becomes a challenge. It literally takes away another sense from somebody,” said Jim Baumbick, the Ford vice president overseeing its personal protective equipment manufacturing effort…

The new masks, which the company announced last week, will be washable and feature anti-fog technology, Baumbick said. They will be available this spring, pending N95 certification, but spokesman Mike Levine said pricing and distribution details were not yet available. Ford also unveiled a DIY air filtration kit for indoor spaces to reduce particle spread.