Improving Vocal Health in Mask-Wearing Community Workers

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Kelly Carraro
Lauren Humpert
Victoria McKenna

Abstract

By Kelly Carraro, Speech Language Hearing Science; Lauren Humpert, Speech Language Hearing Science


Advisor: Victoria McKenna


Awards: Presenter Award: Excellence in Research Communication


Presentation ID: 170


Abstract: With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many community members are required to wear face masks. However, people report difficulty speaking through masks and no public health education tools are currently available. Therefore, the purpose of our project was to develop and test educational content to help community members improve masked-based communication. First, we developed and vetted educational content via interviews with voice experts (n=8) and mask-wearing community members (n=10). We then created four finalized educational modules (see vsmechlab.com/outreach). To test the impact of these modules on behavioral outcomes, we enrolled 5 healthcare providers in two sessions, both at the end of their workweek. In session 1, we examined their current communication problems, use of strategies, and their self-perceived dyspnea (shortness of breath) and vocal effort during readings with and without a mask. Then, we showed them the educational modules and assessed their understanding. In session 2, we reassessed their communication strategies, their module information retention, and their dyspnea and effort during masked communication. The results showed that participants were able to learn and retain the educational content provided with test/re-test accuracy > 90%. Participants increased their use of communication strategies from sessions 1 to 2, especially in improved posture, increased hydration, and articulated speech. However, participants continued to report elevated amounts of dyspnea and vocal effort when communicating with a mask. In conclusion, health education may be beneficial to mask-wearing healthcare workers, but more work is needed to alleviate their consistent reports of increased vocal effort throughout their workday.

Article Details

Section
COVID-19 Impacts and Innovations