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(Reference retrieved automatically from Web of Science through information on FAPESP grant and its corresponding number as mentioned in the publication by the authors.)

Communicating During COVID-19: The Effect of Transparent Masks for Speech Recognition in Noise

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Thibodeau, Linda M. [1] ; Thibodeau-Nielsen, Rachel B. [2] ; Tran, Chi Mai Quynh [1] ; Jacob, Regina Tangerino de Souza [3, 4]
Total Authors: 4
[1] Univ Texas Dallas, Sch Behav & Brain Sci, Callier Ctr Commun Disorders, Dallas, TX 75235 - USA
[2] Univ Missouri, Dept Human Dev & Family Sci, Columbia, MO - USA
[3] Univ Sao Paulo, Bauru Sch Dent, Dept Speech Language Pathol & Audiol, Sao Paulo - Brazil
[4] Univ Texas Dallas, Dallas, TX - USA
Total Affiliations: 4
Document type: Journal article
Source: EAR AND HEARING; v. 42, n. 4, p. 772-781, JUL-AUG 2021.
Web of Science Citations: 1

Objective: The purpose of this study was to assess the speech recognition in noise when using a transparent mask that allows greater visibility of the talker's face compared to an opaque mask in persons with normal and impaired hearing via an online format. Design: A repeated-measures design was used to evaluate the auditory-visual recognition of sentences recorded in background noise with transparent and opaque face masks, and without a mask (N = 154). In a smaller follow-up study (N = 29), the same files were presented via auditory-only presentation to determine if differences observed in the transparent and opaque mask conditions were attributable to additional visual cues or to acoustic differences between the recordings of the two mask types. Listeners completed the 40-minute online session on a computer, laptop, or tablet in a quiet room via their personal listening devices (earbuds or hearing assistive device). The adult volunteers who used English as their first language were recruited through social media links and email and categorized into three groups: normal hearing and confirmed or suspected hearing loss either with or without the use of assistive listening devices. Results: Auditory-visual recognition of sentences recorded with the transparent mask was significantly better (M = 68.9%) than for sentences recorded with the opaque mask (M = 58.9%) for all participants. There was a trend for those who used hearing assistive technology to score lower than the other two groups who had similar performance across all conditions regardless of the mask type. Subjective ratings of confidence and concentration followed the expected pattern based on objective scores. Results of the auditory-only presentation of the sentences to listeners with normal hearing suggested that the transparent mask benefits were not attributable to an acoustic advantage but rather to the addition of the visual cues of the talker's face available through the transparent mask. In fact, performance in the auditory-only presentation was significantly lower with the transparent mask (M = 40.7%) compared to the opaque mask (M = 58.2%). Conclusions: Use of transparent masks can significantly facilitate speech recognition in noise even for persons with normal hearing and thus may reduce stressful communication challenges experienced in medical, employment, and educational settings during the global pandemic. To mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and facilitate communication, safety-approved transparent masks are strongly encouraged over opaque masks. (AU)

FAPESP's process: 19/23162-2 - Electroacoustic verification protocol of remote microphones for hearing impaired students
Grantee:Regina Tangerino de Souza Jacob
Support type: Scholarships abroad - Research