SASKATOON -- In an era of physical distancing and wearing masks, those who are deaf or hard of hearing are having to adapt.

Some use lip-reading to understand communication, which can be difficult if the other person they are communicating with is wearing a mask.

"We use a lot of facial expressions in our language. We use a lot of body language and there is a lot of facial grammar that happens, you know, beneath the nose, and to the chin and mouth area. So when you cover that with a mask, you’re only seeing the eyes," said Robyn Holmes, who is deaf and works with Saskatchewan Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services.

It means it can be hard to know if someone’s expressions are serious or light hearted.

One way to overcome that is through an app like Ava that's made for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

It can allow one person to speak while the other gets text of what they’re saying.

"What you do is you get the screen, and there is a bottom button there which is a microphone, so you hit that microphone and then it starts to record,” Holmes said.

Still, in public not everyone has a mobile device ready to go.

Practicing a little sign language can help, as well as writing things down and using gestures to communicate, Holmes said.

"If the person is speaking, maybe that person isn't getting all of the information. So always making sure your checking into that. And always try to carry a pen and paper with you all the time.

“Or if you have that on your phone, and if there is a phone number and the other person has a phone you can text back and forth.”