Face masks are leaving people feeling isolated and stressed – and people with hearing loss are affected the worst, according to a study.
A survey of 460 people in June and July found that nearly two-thirds said that wearing a mask affected their ability to communicate.
University of Manchester researchers found that 60% of respondents said they communicated differently as a result of wearing a face covering, and 46% said the nature of conversations had changed.
This leads to people feeling anxious, stressed and embarrassed, the researchers warned.
Dr Gabrielle H. Saunders, a senior research fellow at University of Manchester, said: “The results of this survey illustrate that the impact of face coverings on the way we all communicate is far-reaching, going well beyond the acoustics of speech transmission.
“Though it is deeply important for the public to continue to wear face coverings, for our respondents, they had a profound impact on not only how we communicate, but on how connected we feel with someone, and how willing we are to engage in conversation.
Watch: How to wear a face covering comfortably
“The face coverings increased anxiety and stress, and made communication fatiguing, frustrating and embarrassing – both as a speaker wearing a face covering, and when listening to someone else who is wearing one.”
The study is published in the International Journal of Audiology.
Dr Saunders said: “Although face coverings are an essential weapons in the fight to contain COVID-19, we were surprised by the depth of feeling they generated.
“It was clear that though the problems associated with face coverings were particularly relevant to people with hearing loss, people without hearing loss were also affected.”
Transparent face coverings are, said the team, potentially a good solution to the problem, despite blocking sound more than cloth or surgical masks. They can also steam up.
But they do make the whole face more visible, which could make communication much easier.
Watch: How to remove a face covering correctly