How face masks affect children’s understanding of speech differently from adults

How face masks affect children's understanding of speech differently from adults

Face mask use has become ingrained in our culture. For the sake of our own safety and the protection of society at large, we urge this at Asha Speech and Hearing Clinic. Concerns have been expressed regarding the effect of face masks on communication during the COVID-19 epidemic.

However, a study found that face masks had two different effects on how we use language. They alter the voice of the speaker and could give the impression that their speech is muffled. The speaker’s lips are often hidden by the majority of masks. Surprisingly, the study shows that children are more affected by the way masks change speech sounds than they are by the speaker’s lips being hidden from view. This might be due to the fact that children are less adept than adults at combining audio and visual information when listening to and watching a speaker.

At Asha Speech and Hearing Clinic, we place a high priority on health and safety and understand that because mask wearing minimises infection, it may be permissible to hold in-person classes.

Masks and Communication:

Communication can occasionally be hampered by the use of masks, particularly for those who have difficulty hearing or speaking. Here are a few ways that wearing a mask can be difficult:

  • Masks attenuate sound, making speech and some higher-pitched sounds more challenging to comprehend.
  • When wearing a mask, we are unable to read lips or observe facial expressions, which improve our understanding of what is being spoken.
  • For those who have voice or communication issues like aphasia, speaking with a mask might be challenging.
  • Masks can be uncomfortable for people who wear hearing aids or cochlear implants.

Ways to Improve Communication When Wearing Masks

At Asha Speech and Hearing Clinic, we firmly recommend that parents, guardians, daycare workers, and preschool teachers actively participate in the following activities to support young children’s speech and language development. These are wonderful habits to have at all times, but they’re especially important during a pandemic since they can aid with potential communication issues caused by mask wearing:

  • Before you speak, make sure the child is paying attention.
  • Make sure nothing is in your line of vision while you face the child straight.
  • Speak clearly.
  • Utilize your body language and hands. Gestures provide further details.
  • If possible, move to a quiet place.

Masks and Speech-Language Development in Children

At this time, we are not aware of any research about mask use and speech and language development. Studies do exist showing that children can tune into different communication cues when an adult’s mouth is not visible. Children can listen to voices (e.g., inflection, tone) to understand words and they can recognise emotions when looking at the eyes of adults wearing masks in photos.

Mask Use and Hearing Loss

Several strategies can help improve communication while wearing masks for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Both sides are in charge of communication. The following actions can be taken by anyone to assist those who are deaf and hard of hearing:

  • Slowing down your rate of speech and speaking clearly (but not shouting).
  • If possible, move to a quiet location to talk.
  • Using gestures and body language
  • Rephrase your message using different words if you sense that the person does not understand.
  • Use alternative forms of communication if needed (e.g., writing a message down).
  • Facing the person directly as you talk
  • Using an amplifier or microphone

Being patient and helping find solutions to communication challenges. Understand that this is a very difficult listening environment for people with hearing difficulties.

The majority of face masks block the lower third of a speaker’s face from view, making it impossible to see the speaker’s lips as a visual indication. However, listeners (both infants and adults) have been observed to pay more attention to a speaker’s eyes than their lips in calm conditions, indicating that visual cues from the speaker’s eyes are still available.