Impacts of face coverings on communication: An indirect impact of COVID-19

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Objective: To understand the impact of face coverings on hearing and communication. Design: An online survey consisting of closed-set and open-ended questions distributed within the UK to gain insights into experiences of interactions involving face coverings, and of the impact of face coverings on communication. Sample: Four hundred and sixty members of the general public were recruited via snowball sampling. People with hearing loss were intentionally oversampled to more thoroughly assess the effect of face coverings in this group. Results: With few exceptions, participants reported that face coverings negatively impacted hearing, understanding, engagement, and feelings of connection with the speaker. Impacts were greatest when communicating in medical situations. People with hearing loss were significantly more impacted than those without hearing loss. Face coverings impacted communication content, interpersonal connectedness, and willingness to engage in conversation; they increased anxiety and stress, and made communication fatiguing, frustrating and embarrassing–both as a speaker wearing a face covering, and when listening to someone else who is wearing one. Conclusions: Face coverings have far-reaching impacts on communication for everyone, but especially for people with hearing loss. These findings illustrate the need for communication-friendly face-coverings, and emphasise the need to be communication-aware when wearing a face covering.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)495-506
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Audiology
Issue number7
Early online date27 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


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