Say Goodbye to Muffled Speech: How to Communicate Clearly While Wearing a Fabric Face Mask

Feb 28, 2021

Whether on a Zoom call with a client while in a busy office or chatting with your coworker at the watercooler, speaking clearly when wearing a face mask is no easy feat. We’ve all been in situations over the last year where we’ve either had to repeat ourselves numerous times or we’ve struggled to hear what someone else said.

With a return to the office getting closer, we want to provide you with tips on how to communicate clearly while wearing a fabric face mask in and out of the meeting room.

Can You Repeat That? How COVID-19 Face Masks Impacts Communication

It’s not surprising why you’re hearing a lot more “huh” and “what did you say” now. Not only do face masks muffle our voices (especially those masks made from fabric), but they also impact nonverbal cues that are vital as part of communication. 

But, how exactly does this happen? 

COVID-19 masks reduce airflow and in doing so can filter some sound energies and acoustic frequencies, particularly those that are high-pitched. This can make it harder to understand specific voices, words, and reduces our ability to tell similar-sounding words apart. It is also thought that tighter fitting masks might interfere with lip movements needed for pronouncing words that have consonants and rounded vowels. This all leads to muffled speech. 

Wearing a face mask also completely removes the ability to read another person’s lips and facial expressions. Verbal and nonverbal cues are important aspects of communication - as we can’t read lips it’s harder to understand how someone else is feeling and this can lead to issues with misunderstanding. 

Top Tips to Help You Speak Clearly When Wearing a Fabric Face Mask

Now with mask mandates in place, it is guaranteed that many will be returning to the office wearing multi-layered fabric face masks. But speaking more clearly doesn’t mean you have to shout to get your point across in a meeting. Instead, you can follow our top tips listed below.

Use Body Language

One way to improve mask communication is to incorporate more body movements during conversation.  Think of those body parts that are visible when wearing a mask and over emphasize using them. We now rely on visual cues from eyes, eyebrows, hands, and body posture. For example, you can lift your eyebrows to show you’re surprised or you can use hand gestures to convey your emotion. 

Being mindful of our body language can help the person you are speaking to understand what you’re saying even if your speech is being slightly muffled. Make sure that you are facing them directly and nothing is blocking their view. 

Take Your Time When Speaking

When someone can’t hear what we’re saying properly, our immediate reaction may be to speak louder and faster to get our message across. Instead, focus on taking your time when communicating while wearing a fabric face mask. 

By slowing down the rate at which you speak, this will give the other person more time to fully focus on listening to the words that you’re saying.

Be Conscious of Your Environment

Be aware of other noises that are happening around you and make an effort to move to a quiet place when having a conversation. Trying to speak with a colleague about performance results when in a busy and noisy office space won’t be as easy now. Before we could rely on lip reading to follow conversations when distracting noises were in the background, now that’s impossible. 

Ask Follow-Up Questions

Another way to improve communications while wearing masks is by asking follow-up questions. This can either be done in-person during the conversation or afterwards over email. If you are the speaker, this will make sure that the listener fully understood the key takeaways from your meeting. 

Wear a Breathable Face Mask Insert

Using a breathable face mask insert can improve airflow therefore increasing breathability and make it easier for you to be understood when speaking. The PowerAir Face Mask Insert is designed to insert comfortably under any face masks and will lift fabric away from your nose and mouth. This will eliminate restricted lip movements leading to muffled speech and will help you communicate more clearly.  

Speak Clearly with a PowerAir Breathable Face Mask Insert

Looking to be heard clearly in your next meeting? Shop the PowerAir Mask Insert today to receive enhanced breathability, improved comfort, and assured safety against the COVID-19 virus.

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