Researchers look at how masks impact communication

NOW: Researchers look at how masks impact communication

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – A new study is looking at how masks are impacting communication and how well people are adapting to the change.

Researchers say it’s known when wearing a mask the loss of visual cues can make understanding speech harder, but the study looked at how masks impact the sound reaching people’s ears.

“We realize that everybody is in a very different communication situation often now,” UW-Milwaukee Associate professor Anne Pycha said. “When we go to the grocery store or out to run errands, we’re very often wearing a face mask.”

Pycha, along with researchers from the University of California-Davis, looked at how different speaking styles like casual, clear and emotional speech impacted listeners.

They found when masked participants were speaking casually, there wasn’t a difference in intelligibility, with positive emotional speech it was harder to understand, but when people spoke clearly, listeners were able to understand what they were saying better than those not wearing a mask.

“So let’s try to make the effort to talk more clearly when wearing a mask,” Pycha said. “I think that message actually goes beyond facemasks to some extent because on an everyday basis even without facemasks, we are interacting regularly with people who may have a little bit more difficulty understanding us, people who are hearing impaired, people whose first language is not English.”

Pycha said they hope to do similar studies with others in the future, like the hearing impaired.

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