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Research Team Examines the Impact of Face Coverings on Communication and Health Outcomes

Tuesday, February 16, 2021
Man in face mask

Hearing loss is a common source of disability that can lead to poor speech perception and an increased reliance on lip-reading. Hearing loss has negative consequences on the ease and effectiveness of patient-provider communication and affects the degree to which patients have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand information needed to ensure positive health outcomes.

The required use of face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic has eliminated visual access to facial information needed to complement suboptimal hearing in older patients. Face coverings also result in muffled, softer speech. With heightened anxiety around COVID-19, this added barrier to communication is likely affecting patient experience and the quality of patient-provider communication. The resulting impact on health literacy can lead to adverse health outcomes, particularly in older patients.

Kristal Riska, AuD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Head and Neck Surgery & Communication Sciences, and Howard Francis, MD, MBA, Chair of the Department of Head and Neck Surgery & Communication Sciences, are team leads on a research project to evaluate the impact of mandatory face mask use by providers, clinical staff and patients on communication and health outcomes in the outpatient setting. The team will focus on patients aged 60 or older, as this population has a higher risk of the effects of hearing loss compared to younger patients.

Read more about the study:

Impact of Face Covering on Patient Communication and Health Outcomes 

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