Societal wearing of facemasks became commonplace during COVID-19. Verbal communication
requires both auditory and visual cues for successful communication exchange. However, the use of
facemasks obscures the mouth removing access to essential visual information which can negatively
Aims: This study investigated if communication interaction has changed since the introduction of
face masks; explored a comparison of clear and surgical face masks in understanding verbal
communication, and, the perceived benefits, barriers, and facemask preferences from the
perspectives of the general population.
Method: An online survey was completed by 193 participants (aged 18-79). Participants watched
four videos of male and female speakers, who wore either a clear or surgical mask, and gave
opinions regarding each mask type in relation to their use, preference, and communication. Potential associations with gender, age, occupation, and experience of mask type were analysed
using Chi-square. Participant comments were analysed using Thematic Analysis.
Findings: Most participants (78%) reported a negative change in their communication exchanges
since the requirement for wearing face masks was introduced. 64% favoured clear over surgical
masks. Participants noted that Comfort (55%), Protection (52%), Availability (51%), Cost (44%) and
Fashion (41%) influenced mask choice. Identified themes regarding facemasks included
‘Communication benefits and challenges’; ‘Attitudes towards mask design’, and ‘Potential benefits
of clear masks’.
Conclusion: Surgical face coverings can negatively affect verbal communication due to the mouth
being covered. Clear facemasks have the potential to circumvent this challenge, although
participants reported a hesitancy in adopting these facemasks due to an unappealing mask design.