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Which Masks Hamper Communication the Least?

THURSDAY, Dec. 10, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- While teachers and students are adapting in some locations to wearing face masks for in-person learning, those masks can make speech more difficult to understand, new research suggests.

Investigators compared a three-layer fabric mask, a surgical mask and an N95 mask in two classroom settings. The fabric masks made comprehension most difficult. Therefore, the researchers recommended that instructors wear either surgical or N95 masks.

The findings will be presented today at the Acoustical Society of America's virtual annual meeting.

"Because of the problems that COVID-19 is forcing us to face, the significance of this study consists in giving recommendation on the best type of masks to wear while teaching, to minimize their negative effect on speech intelligibility," said researcher Pasquale Bottalico, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

"The use of surgical and N95 masks can minimize negative effects on speech intelligibility and the students' listening effort while protecting instructors and students alike," he said in a meeting news release.

Research presented at meetings is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has information on different types of face masks.

SOURCE: Acoustical Society of America, news release, Dec. 9, 2020

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