Effect of Face Mask on Voice Production During COVID-19 Pandemic: A Systematic Review

Sheela Shekaraiah, Kiran Suresh

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an ongoing global pandemic and wearing face mask is recommended across the globe to break the transmission chain of infection. The masks available in the market are of different types and materials and tend to alter the voice characteristics of the speaker. This can therefore impair optimal communication and the present study is a systematic review exploring the effect of various masks on voice production parameters. Study Design: Systematic review. Materials and Methods: The titles and abstracts screening was carried out for the inclusion of articles using eight electronic databases spanning the period from 1st January 2020 to 30th April 2021. 10 articles (8 published & 2 in pre-print) that met the inclusion criteria were considered for this systematic review and the pooled age range was 18 –69 years. Results: Three primary studies from the USA, 2 each from Australia & Italy, one each from Brazil, China, and Germany were found to have investigated the influence of wearing N95, KN95, surgical and fabric masks on voice related measures. The users significantly reported vocal fatigue, discomfort, and also perceived voice problems. Attenuation of speech sound amplitude was highest for the transparent mask followed by cloth mask, N95, KN95, and surgical mask. Conclusion: The World Health Organization (WHO) has been repeatedly endorsing the need to use a face mask in the current COVID-19 pandemic. However, for an unintruded voice production, the surgical mask is recommended for everyone, including healthcare professionals when they are not in close contact with patients, and not involved in aerosol-generating procedures. For teachers, doing direct teaching (offline classes), ‘surgical mask’ can reduce the vocal load of teachers, smoothen the teacher-student interaction and thereby facilitate better learning by the students. Additionally, it would be useful to protect oneself from the risk of developing voice problems by following standard vocal healthcare tips.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Voice
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • LPN and LVN
  • Speech and Hearing

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