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Communicating Through Face Coverings

While face coverings are one way to combat COVID-19, they can pose communication problems.

Merri Rosen, Ph.D., director of Northeast Ohio Medical University’s Hearing Research Group, recently spoke with Jeff St. Clair of WKSU, and noted that face coverings create more hurdles than just the muffled sound of our masked voices.

“The loss of smiles is not a minor loss, it’s actually a very substantial loss,” said Dr. Rosen.

With those missing visual elements, it can be difficult to recognize facial expressions.

Communication tools for COVID-19-style communication

Julia Jones Huyck, Ph.D., director of the speech pathology and audiology program at Kent State University, offered six tips for effective face covering communication.

  • Maintain eye contact.  (Really look at people when you talk to them.)
  • Signal your intentions.  (Get someone’s attention by saying their name or gesturing to them.)
  • Don’t yell.  (It’s a form of speech distortion.)
  • Try to avoid noisy environments.
  • Practice communication repairs.  (Rephrase what you said when something was missed, and if you’re the one who missed the information, be really specific about what was missed.)
  • Most of all, be patient with each other.


Read or listen to Dr. Rosen and Jeff St. Clair’s conversation on WKSU.