Acoustic effects of medical, cloth, and transparent face masks on speech signals

Ryan M Corey, Uriah Jones, Andrew C Singer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Face masks muffle speech and make communication more difficult, especially for people with hearing loss. This study examines the acoustic attenuation caused by different face masks, including medical, cloth, and transparent masks, using a head-shaped loudspeaker and a live human talker. The results suggest that all masks attenuate frequencies above 1 kHz, that attenuation is greatest in front of the talker, and that there is substantial variation between mask types, especially cloth masks with different materials and weaves. Transparent masks have poor acoustic performance compared to both medical and cloth masks. Most masks have little effect on lapel microphones, suggesting that existing sound reinforcement and assistive listening systems may be effective for verbal communication with masks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2371-2375
Number of pages5
JournalThe Journal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2020


  • novel coronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)
  • Pandemic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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