Communicating effectively with face masks

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ATLANTA, Ga. (WJBF) – As more people wear masks to curb the spread of coronavirus, teachers and students are facing a new challenge : communicating effectively while wearing face coverings.

Atlanta’s Emory University says more than 400 teachers have reached out to the college on sounding muffled while wearing masks.

Health experts predict that nearly 20 million Americans deal with voice problems.

Amanda Gillespie, Director of Speech Language Pathology, Co-director of the Emory Voice Center said, “Teachers may experience voice problems, things like hoarseness, vocal effort and vocal fatigue, problems being heard with a face mask in the classroom.”

Doctors say voice disorders are the number one reason why teachers leave the field.

Teachers make up the largest case load of major voice centers. Teachers are twice as likely to develop voice disorders than any other occupation.”

Now add a mask to the mix and it can make comprehension a little bit more difficult.

If you are trying to talk while wearing the face mask, increasing your vocal effort. You are working a little harder to be heard and we are asking people to repeat a lot because ineligibility is harder with a face mask.”

Experts say it’s not just teachers, even health care workers with telemedicine face the issue.

Amanda Gillespie, Director of Speech Language Pathology, Co-director of the Emory Voice Center said, Classrooms are not quiet. Teachers have to project their voice over background noise. Not just student noise but the acoustics of the classroom with the sound bouncing of the wall and the amount of teaching the do, also puts them at risk for voice problems.

Doctors say even with masks “vocal fatigue” is preventable and treatable.

A really good rule of thumb is to laugh, yawn, open mouth yawn, over articulate and really move your mouth. Since we can’t rely on looking at their mouth, we have to use very crisp, clear speech.”

Speech pathologists say drink more water, practice vocal warm ups, slow down the pace, eliminate background noise when speaking and use a microphone or headphone so you can project less.

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