The Effect Surgical Masks on Speech Understanding

Atcherson, S. et al. (2017) Journal of the American Academy of Audiology. 28(1)  pp. 58-67(10)

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Background: It is generally well known that speech perception is often improved with integrated audiovisual input whether in quiet or in noise. In many health-care environments, however, conventional surgical masks block visual access to the mouth and obscure other potential facial cues. In addition, these environments can be noisy. Although these masks may not alter the acoustic properties, the presence of noise in addition to the lack of visual input can have a deleterious effect on speech understanding. A transparent (“see-through”) surgical mask may help to overcome this issue.

Conclusions: Findings confirm improved speech perception performance in noise for listeners with hearing impairment when visual input is provided using a transparent surgical mask. Most importantly, the use of the transparent mask did not negatively affect speech perception performance in noise.

Read the full abstract here

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