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Improving Audibility While Wearing a Mask

In today’s world, due to COVID-19, a mask has become something we’ve learned to incorporate into our every-day lives. Having our mouths covered can make having a conversation difficult, especially for Deaf or hearing-impaired individuals.  

Did you know sound can be reduced by up to 10-12 decibels (dB) with the use of a face mask? Typically, a conversation is measured at 60dB; a whisper at 30dB. To put this into perspective – 40dB is the measurement of a refrigerator, 20dB is the measurement of rustling leaves, and 10dB is the measurement of a normal breath.

While speaking with a mask on, speech audibility and pitch will be impacted for both the speaker and the listener.

Here are some suggestions on how to improve audibility during in-person conversations while wearing your mask.

  • Always face the person you are talking to
  • Communicate where there is ample lighting, making sure light falls on your face so your face is not in a shadow
  • Consider an approved clear mask to maximize mouth and facial cues
  • Use clear speech techniques by speaking slowly and clearly, and insert occasional pauses into your speech
  • Do not shout or over-articulate(1)
  • Never have a dialogue about important matters while walking side by side
  • If someone is having trouble understanding you, rephrase your statement rather than repeating the same words
  • Have information ready in written form to minimize communication errors
  • Choose to have conversations in an area that has low environmental noise

We hope these tips help you communicate with friends and loved ones while we stay safe by wearing our masks!

1. Liu S, Zeng FG – Temporal properties in clear speech perception