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      Are Acoustic Markers of Voice and Speech Signals Affected by Nose-and-Mouth-Covering Respiratory Protective Masks?

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          There is no author summary for this article yet. Authors can add summaries to their articles on ScienceOpen to make them more accessible to a non-specialist audience.

          Abstract

          Background

          Worldwide use of nose-and-mouth-covering respiratory protective mask (RPM) has become ubiquitous during COVID19 pandemic. Consequences of wearing RPMs, especially regarding perception and production of spoken communication, are gradually emerging. The present study explored how three prevalent RPMs affect various speech and voice sound properties.

          Methods

          Pre-recorded sustained [a] vowels and read sentences from 47 subjects were played by a speech production model (‘Voice Emitted by Spare Parts’, or ‘VESPA’) in four conditions: without RPM (C1), with disposable surgical mask (C2), with FFP2 mask (C3), and with transparent plastic mask (C4). Differences between C1 and masked conditions were assessed with Dunnett's t test in 26 speech sound properties related to voice production (fundamental frequency, sound intensity level), voice quality (jitter percent, shimmer percent, harmonics-to-noise ratio, smoothed cepstral peak prominence, Acoustic Voice Quality Index), articulation and resonance (first and second formant frequencies, first and second formant bandwidths, spectral center of gravity, spectral standard deviation, spectral skewness, spectral kurtosis, spectral slope, and spectral energy in ten 1-kHz bands from 0 to 10 kHz).

          Results

          C2, C3, and C4 significantly affected 10, 15, and 19 of the acoustic speech markers, respectively. Furthermore, absolute differences between unmasked and masked conditions were largest for C4 and smallest for C2.

          Conclusions

          All RPMs influenced more or less speech sound properties. However, this influence was least for surgical RPMs and most for plastic RPMs. Surgical RPMs are therefore preferred when spoken communication is priority next to respiratory protection.

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          Most cited references 31

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          Is Open Access

          Respirator masks protect health but impact performance: a review

          Respiratory protective masks are used whenever it is too costly or impractical to remove airborne contamination from the atmosphere. Respirators are used in a wide range of occupations, form the military to medicine. Respirators have been found to interfere with many physiological and psychological aspects of task performance at levels from resting to maximum exertion. Many of these limitations have been investigated in order to determine quantitatively how much performance decrement can be expected from different levels of respirator properties. The entire system, including respirator and wearer interactions, must be considered when evaluating wearer performances. This information can help respirator designers to determine trade-offs or managers to plan to compensate for reduced productivity of wearers.
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            Diminished Speech Intelligibility Associated with Certain Types of Respirators Worn by Healthcare Workers

            This study sought to determine the level of communication interference associated with commonly used disposable and reusable respirators and surgical masks worn by healthcare workers. Speech intelligibility was assessed using the modified rhyme test in an intensive care unit environment. Respirators decreased speech intelligibility by a range of 1% to 17%, although not all were statistically significant. Differences in speech intelligibility associated with surgical masks and disposable filtering facepiece respirators (without exhalation valves) were not statistically significant compared with controls. Wearing half-face elastomeric respirators with voice augmentation equipment was associated with higher speech intelligibility than models without this equipment (OR = 2.81). Hearing clarity while wearing a powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) was 79% compared with 90% with no PAPR (OR = 0.40). While some respirators appear to have little or no effect on speech intelligibility, interference with speech intelligibility associated with certain types of respirators commonly worn by U.S. healthcare workers may be substantial.
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              Speech Understanding Using Surgical Masks: A Problem in Health Care?

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                J Voice
                J Voice
                Journal of Voice
                The Voice Foundation. Published by Elsevier Inc.
                0892-1997
                1873-4588
                16 February 2021
                16 February 2021
                Affiliations
                [* ]Department of Otorhinolaryngology & Head and Neck Surgery, European Institute for ORL-HNS, Wilrijk, Belgium
                []Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
                []Faculty of Education, Health & Social Work, University College Ghent, Gent, Belgium
                [§ ]Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, School of Logopedics, Belgium
                []Phonanium, Lokeren, Belgium
                []Lab for Equilibrium Investigations and Aerospace (LEIA), University of Antwerp, Wilrijk, Belgium
                Author notes
                [** ]Address correspondence and reprint request to: Youri Maryn, GZA Sint-Augustinus, European Institute for ORL-HNS, Oosterveldlaan 24, 2610 Wilrijk, Belgium.
                Article
                S0892-1997(21)00037-0
                10.1016/j.jvoice.2021.01.013
                7885637
                © 2021 The Voice Foundation. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

                Since January 2020 Elsevier has created a COVID-19 resource centre with free information in English and Mandarin on the novel coronavirus COVID-19. The COVID-19 resource centre is hosted on Elsevier Connect, the company's public news and information website. Elsevier hereby grants permission to make all its COVID-19-related research that is available on the COVID-19 resource centre - including this research content - immediately available in PubMed Central and other publicly funded repositories, such as the WHO COVID database with rights for unrestricted research re-use and analyses in any form or by any means with acknowledgement of the original source. These permissions are granted for free by Elsevier for as long as the COVID-19 resource centre remains active.

                Categories
                Article

                Otolaryngology

                respiratory protection masks–speech–voice–acoustics

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