Since the coronavirus outbreak started in March 2020, we’ve relied heavily on social distancing, regular sanitising and wearing face masks to stop the spread of the virus. Face masks are now mandatory in many public places, including restaurants, retail shops and other hospitality venues. Although face coverings are designed to protect, they are also having an effect on how we communicate.
Speaking to others through face coverings means that what you’re seeing and hearing isn’t in alignment, and in turn can make it difficult to follow the conversation that you usually would. Communication with a face mask is also hard for people with certain disabilities: for example, those who are hard of hearing and rely on facial expressions and lip reading.
In this blog, we’ll look at how face masks impact communication, and ways to solve the problem whilst remaining safe and still adhering to social distancing guidelines.
How Face Masks Impact Communication
When wearing a face covering correctly, the material will fit over a person’s nose and mouth, to act as a barrier against the coronavirus. But, by doing this, it can sometimes make communication more difficult for people who suffer from hearing loss or speech impediments. Face masks make it harder to communicate as they can:
- Muffle sound, making it harder to understand what someone is saying.
- Take away a person’s ability to read lips and see facial expression, making it harder to understand what they’re hearing.
- Make it difficult for people with communication problems, like aphasia or voice problems, to speak.
- Be uncomfortable to wear for people with hearing aids or cochlear implants
But it’s not just people with hearing loss and those who rely on lip reading that can be affected. Communication with a face mask can also lead to what’s known as ‘the McGurk effect’ happening in everyday conversation. This is when someone perceives that someone’s lip movements don’t match up with what they’re actually saying.
When you wear a face mask, you’re relying on the pure sound of someone’s voice to communicate. However, because our brains are so used to seeing lip movements when someone speaks, when you wear a face covering, you might misinterpret what is being shared. Your brain might try to convince you that you’re hearing something that hasn’t been said.
How to enhance communication with face masks
Unfortunately, it seems that the coronavirus will be sticking around for a while, even with the vaccine rollout underway. As a result, masks, hand washing and other social distancing measures look set to become the new normal. So what are some of the ways in which we can improve communication with a face mask on? Here are a few methods you can try:
Be more expressive with your upper face
When communicating with face masks on, try being more expressive with your eyebrows, eyes, and upper cheeks during conversation. This can help to emphasise your point across more, and help to show emotions to those who rely on facial expressions for communications.
Talking slower and louder in quieter settings
It sounds obvious, but if you articulate your speech more and talk slightly louder, it can help to overcome the muffling sound that can occur from wearing a face covering.
Use a transparent face mask
There are different types of masks that can help people communicate more easily, whilst still offering the same level of protection against Covid-19. Cloth and surgical face masks on the other hand, can hinder their ability to understand and take part in meaningful conversations. For example, masks with clear panels have not only been designed to improve conversations in general, but they also support those who need visual communication to speak with others.
Rely on technology for interactions
People who are hard of hearing might prefer virtual meetings more beneficial than in-person ones. Video software platforms, such as Zoom, allow people with hearing loss to use a closed captioning option to automatically display the words being spoken on a screen. Zoom also lets whoever’s speaking to be isolated on the screen, which means in addition to the captions, people can read their lips as well.
Do you have hearing aids or implants? Try this!
If you struggle to wear a mask comfortably over your hearing aid or cochlear implant, try these methods:
- Safely secure your hearing device with tape or another non-damaging material, like a cloth headband.
- Use a button extender for the mask to attach it behind your head inside of looping it over your ears.
- Choose a mask that has four string ties instead of ear loops.
Mask4Life face masks can help with communicating
At Mask4Life, we believe that it’s important to provide face masks for everyone, not just the well and able majority. We understand that the average face mask can have a big impact on communication, especially if you have staff that suffer from speech or hearing loss.
That’s why, we offer a selection of reusable masks that support those who need visual communication to speak with others. The use of transparent masks helps individuals read lips and still have proper conversations. For example, our M4L Vision Face Mask has a clear PVC window fitted within the cloth, but it still maintains the same high level of protection as our other mask options.
Bulk buy our vision face masks to support your staff
If you’re interested in purchasing vision face masks to support your employees, then don’t hesitate to contact us.All of our face masks are double layered, reusable, and fully washable. Plus, there’s no extra cost of purchasing disposable masks and there’s a 100% reduction in waste. Not only does this save you money, but it also helps to stop single-use masks ending up in the ocean or landfill sites!