The Importance of Masks in the Time of COVID-19:
Over the past year, people around the world have had to re-evaluate their lifestyles and the way they conduct themselves. Mask wearing has become one of the most significant aspects of preventing the spread of the virus, due to the fact that the virus’ main source of transmission is through droplets. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend the use of medical masks by the public as a shortage of PPE such as medical masks for healthcare workers has been reported. The use of home made masks has raised the extremely prominent concern of how people understand speech when a person is wearing a mask. This is especially important for people who suffer from hearing loss.
The Acoustic Effects of Masks
Studies have shown that face masks decrease the strength and understanding of speech. Hearing professionals and other professionals working with hearing impaired individuals have started using transparent face-masks in order to facilitate speech understanding through lip reading.
In a recent study run by our team at eMoyo (eMoyo Research: An Investigation On The Attenuation Effects Of Face Masks On Speech Stimuli), a sample of six various types of masks were used in order to test the attenuation values of each mask. This study has proven that masks adversely affect the projection of speech. One of the masks that was used during testing was the AIROwave mask, which was designed by the eMoyo team. The study has also proven that the AIROwave mask as well as surgical masks, have the least effect on speech signals.Therefore, they may be the better masks to use when working with people who have hearing difficulties.
The Face Shield and Clear Mask attenuated the greatest amount of high-frequency energy. These types of masks are recommended when working with patients with hearing loss as they assist with visual cues (i.e. lip reading). However, they decrease the high frequency sound energy that is crucial for speech perception. These masks also offer minimal protection with regards to the spread of COVID-19. This blog post provides pertinent information regarding the importance of masks in the time of COVID-19.
When choosing the correct masks, it is important to ensure that your masks provide you with the best all round effectiveness. A mask that is breathable, comfortable, and easy to speak through is of a high significance during these current times.