A University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) professor has published new research on the impact of transparent face shields on sound transmission.
Samuel Atcherson, Ph.D., has published a new study in Audiology Today, showing that transparent face shields muffle voices more than other masks tend to do. Atcherson is aprofessor of audiology in the College of Health Professions and professor of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery in the College of Medicine.
According to Atcherson, masks and shields pose multiple problems for individuals with hearing loss and those who require nonverbal facial cues. Masks pose a visual barrier, and masks and shields muffle sounds.
“As an audiologist, I want to ensure that communication doesn’t suffer during these times of universal masking,” Atcherson in a statement. “The deaf and hard of hearing community has always been at a disadvantage in the health care system because medical masks interfere with their ability to read lips. Now that disadvantage is everywhere.”
During his research, Atcherson and his team found that surgical masks muffle sounds by five decibels, N95 masks muffle sound between 8.7-10.9 decibels; commercially available transparent masks muffle sound between 12-13.3 decibels; and homemade transparent cloth masks reduce sounds by 21.1 decibels.
Combined with a mask, face shields can muffle sound quality by as much as 20 to 29.2 decibels.
Atcherson advises medical professionals to keep the impact of masks and face shields in mind when treating patients, particularly those with hearing losses.
“With face masks being a part of our lives for the near future, we need to understand how they affect our speech and make adjustments for that,” Atcherson said. “As this pandemic has left so many of us feeling isolated, communication is more important than ever.”