Saving your voice whilst wearing a Mask

 

Wearing masks is currently mandatory in Victoria due to CoVID -19 restrictions and this is causing voice problems for many who are struggling to continue to work when challenged by this new “normal”.  Wearing a mask can cause your voice to become fatigued or tired when having to speak for prolonged periods of time. Here are some communication tips to help save your voice whilst wearing a mask and needing to communicate.

 

How masks make it harder to Communicate:

  • Can muffle or distort speech making it more difficult to be understood.

  • Masks take away the ability to lip read and see facial expressions, which is a major contributor to our hearing and understanding when communicating with others.

  • Wearing a mask can be especially difficult for people who suffer from voice, hearing or communication problems and can affect those who suffer from anxiety or breathing problems such as asthma…the feeling of something covering the mouth can feel invasive to some and cause a feeling of shortness of breath or panic.

Tips for communicating with a mask

  • Make sure you have your communication partners attention before speaking

  • Face your partner directly

  • Talk a little slower

  • Articulate clearly

  • Don’t speak louder as this is likely to cause vocal strain and fatigue

  • Use your hands and body language to assist communication

  • Move to a quieter place if possible

  • Talk more forward which will give your voice more vibrancy and it will carry further

  • Use adequate inflection and avoid a monotone voice as this can be fatiguing on the voice and make it harder to be understood

For teachers:

It has been suggested that teachers need to exert their voices 25-50 percent more when wearing a mask. Teachers are already in a high vocal load and high risk group with 40-50 percent of teachers experiencing voice discomfort or strain during their career….and that’s prior to wearing a mask.

Teachers are speaking all day long often in a large classroom with a noisy background and they don’t get vocal rest because when they are not teaching they are liaising with students or doing other tasks that still require voice use (meetings, Yard duty etc)

A person speaks at 50-60 decibels on average without a mask at conversational level to be heard.  Wearing a mask takes away 5-20 decibels!

 

  • Stay hydrated. Drink water throughout the day and use a steamer and a humidifier at night.  Keep your throat moist.

  • Rest your voice when you can. Pace yourself.

  • Delegate – ask children to read out instructions where possible to save your voice

  • Use your breath well – Take a deep abdominal breath through your nose. Make sure you don’t take high breaths as this can create tension in the chest and throat. Use your abdominal muscles to project your voice (see attached videos on how to do this)

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xQJ2O4b5TM

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PnzaCn-Lis

 

  • Do vocal warm ups such as trills and sirens before you start teaching and at the end of the day. Just like you would stretch before and after a run, the vocal cords are muscles.

  • Posture! Keep your jaw, neck, shoulders and chest relaxed. Stand straight and watch you are not pushing your head forward.

  • Try not to force your voice

  • Awareness – Be aware of your voice and if its feeling strained or tired

  • Straw exercises – do these at the end of the day or during breaks.

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utMGP8h75nM#action=share

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYkqLed1JZw

Remember if you have a medical condition such as Asthma, Anxiety and/or Dysphonia you may be able to obtain a medical exemption from wearing a mask.

Further tips  and examples of exercises can be found at https://www2.education.vic.gov.au/pal/voice-care-teachers/policy

If you are really struggling and need further assistance contact a Speech Pathologist who specializes in Voice Therapy or see a Laryngologist (ENT who specializes in Voice)

 

by Samantha U’Ren –Speech Pathologist, Voice Therapist and Singing Voice Specialist

 www.ingoodvoice.com.au

Samantha@ingoodvoice.com.au

 

Resources-

 

https://www.asha.org/News/2020/ASHA-Offers-Tips-for-Teachers-to-Protect-Their-Voices-This-School-Year/

 

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatoon/face-masks-shields-may-cause-vocal-strain-for-teachers-1.5743170

 

https://theconversation.com/the-science-of-how-you-sound-when-you-talk-through-a-face-mask-139817

© Copyright 2019 by In Good Voice. 

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