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What did you say? How masks affect your communication & understanding

2WTK tests you and co-workers with taped messages masked and unmasked.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — How much do masks hinder you from understanding what others are saying? Researchers at UC Davis in California did a study with listeners who couldn’t see the speakers but could only hear them.

"We spend a lot of our lives interacting and speaking wearing facemasks," says Michelle Cohn, UC Davis Research Fellow. "We were really interested in whether wearing fabric face masks might make it more difficult for people to understand others.”

2WTK did our own study. I taped myself saying the same sentence, one version was done with a mask on, the other without. I asked WFMY News 2’s Julie Luck and Ben Briscoe to listen and see if they could tell which one was which. You can see it happen live at 5 pm.

In the meantime, the UC Davis study found when their masked subject used a casual voice, there was no mask effect.

When the speaker used clear speech, a slower and more exaggerated annunciation -- the listener understood best.

Here’s the catch, if the speaker used positive emotional speech, high pitches like you would talk to a dog, it was more difficult for listeners to understand.

The UC Davis team finding: the ability to understand someone wearing a mask may be more psychological than physical. It seems when you can't see the mask, you don't hear the mask muffle but when you see someone wearing a mask you automatically think you won’t be able to understand them.

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