Senior woman wearing surgical face mask sits in chair while giving the thumbs-up sign

A mask-covered face can hamper communication between providers and residents. But some simple tips can help, says the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. 

To counteract the effects of muffled voices and lost ability to read lips and facial expressions, ASHA recommends the following: 

  • Have your communication partner’s attention before speaking.
  • Face your partner directly, and make sure nothing is blocking your view.
  • Talk a little louder (don’t shout) and a little slower.
  • Use your hands and your body language.
  • Ask if your partner understood you. If not, say it a different way or write it down.
  • Move to a quiet place if possible.
  • When talking with someone new, ask if there’s anything you can do to make communication easier.
  • When appropriate, consider using a mask with a clear panel over the mouth or a clear face shield.

Mask wearing can also be uncomfortable for people who wear hearing aids or have cochlear implants. ASHA advises that users:

  • Secure the device with wig tape or another non-damaging material, such as a cloth headband.
  • Use a button extender to attach the mask behind the head rather than looping it over the ears.
  • Remove the mask in a safe place, then check to make sure the device is working.
  • Choose a mask that has four string ties rather than ear loops.

A report illustrating how masks degrade speech perception can be found here.

In other mask-related news

Most seniors approve of mask-wearing: A new SeniorList report finds that 76% of older adults “disapprove” or “strongly disapprove” of an individual’s decision not to wear a mask in public. Over half are concerned that they will contract COVID-19. Only 14% of seniors say they are not concerned. And most seniors (66%) are only leaving their house a “few times per week” or “not at all.”