Impact of Face Masks on Speech in Parkinson's Disease: Effect of Clear and Loud Speech Styles


Purpose: The purpose of this study is to quantify the combined effects of face masks and effortful speech styles on speech intensity, spectral moments, and measures of spectral balance in talkers with Parkinson’s disease.

Method: Fifteen people with Parkinson’s disease and 15 healthy, older controls read aloud sentences in three face mask conditions and three speech style conditions. Mask conditions included no mask, surgical masks, and KN95 masks. Speech styles included habitual, clear, and loud. Acoustic measures of intensity, spectral moments, and spectral balance were modeled as a function of speaker group, mask, and speech style.

Results: Overall, talkers with PD demonstrated lower concentrations of high-frequency spectral energy in their speech. Face masks attenuated high-frequency energy, whereas clear followed by loud speaking styles amplified high frequencies. Overall, the attenuation observed by face masks was preserved across speech styles, and both mask and speech patterns were observed to be similar across groups.

Discussion: Clear and loud speech styles were effective in compensating for the damping effects of masks in talkers with and without PD. However, given that people with PD demonstrated poorer overall spectral balance compared to controls, the gains afforded by speaking clearly or loudly may be limited when wearing a face mask.

Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research