Honors Projects


Objectives / Introduction:

Mask-wearing has become commonplace for the public during the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic. This has caused communication difficulties such as muffled speech, causing a lowered speech intelligibility and worse audibility. The purpose of this study was to determine the acoustic filtering effects of various masks.

Methods / Study Design:

The acoustic effects of a surgical mask, a Singer’s Mask, and an N95 mask were obtained. A single subject spoke (and repeated) the vowels /a,i,u/ and the consonants /s, ∫/, and sang the vowels on G4 and C5 with and without the masks, respectively. Spectra of the vowels and long-term average spectra of the consonants were used to obtain comparative results.


All of the masks created high frequency energy attenuation from zero to 15 dB in various locations of the acoustic spectrum. The masks typically act as a low pass filter, meaning that the mask attenuates higher frequencies. For speech, the N95 mask had the highest level of attenuation for the vowels and consonants around the formants and salient locations. The surgical mask had the least amount of attenuation around the formants and salient locations.


Communication difficulties with using masks tend to reduce energy in frequencies above the first formant. This may lead to difficult listening conditions by reducing the ability to understand what is said or what is sung.


Communication Sciences and Disorders


Communication Sciences and Disorders

First Advisor

Dr. Ronald Scherer, Ph.D

First Advisor Department

Communication Sciences and Disorders

Second Advisor

Dr. Emily Pence Brown, Ph.D

Second Advisor Department

Music Education

Publication Date

Spring 4-19-2021