Time and again, the pros of wearing face masks during a pandemic outweigh its cons. Above else, it’s safety and function one should be focusing on rather than other factors like comfort and fashion. On the contrary, the fact that most face masks, to this day, almost make proper verbal communication impossible also remains.
Some of us may not make too big of a deal out of it. But for those who already have trouble expressing their thoughts through words or listening, including those struggling with hearing loss, it’s much easier said than done. Hence, knowing the best face masks for speaking and listening is in order.
Best face masks for communication
A team of researchers from San Francisco, California studied four kinds of face masks and how they affect speech among their wearers. There were two varieties of a cloth mask, a surgical mask, and an N95 mask.
“In the context of the pandemic, we were motivated to look at this issue more closely, since there was little previous research on how different types of masks affect speech,” author Joseph Toscano, a psychological and brain sciences professor, said via a republished story on CNN Philippines.
In the study, the masks were tested against everyday background noises to find out which of them would enable speech recognition the best. The results were published on 24 Feb 2021 by PLOS One, a peer-reviewed scientific journal based in San Francisco, California. There, it was revealed that surgical masks had the better intelligibility performance of the four. Hence, they are the best face masks for communication.
Surgical masks, as many of us already know, are mainly designed for medical use and immediate disposal. Made of three layers of non-woven materials, these remain the most accessible among Filipinos. They also provide the best protection against viruses, along with KN95 masks.
Other ways to enhance speech through masks
The report by CNN Philippines also highlights other ways to make communicating easier when wearing face masks. Among them is opting for cloth masks with a see-through plastic panel.
In other cases, one could avoid going to areas with loud background noises, modulating your voice, talking face to face, and using non-verbal gestures. You can also turn to gadgets that have talk-to-text applications or simply checking on the other person from time to time.
No matter what happens, the important thing to remember is to never remove your face masks, especially in public places. At the end of the day, one should still prioritise wearing them for health purposes according to Toscano. “Concerns about speech communication, on their own, don’t provide a compelling reason not to wear a mask in everyday settings.”
Featured image credit: Prathan Chorruangsak | Canva