How important is it for a doctor to wear a face mask if a patient can’t understand what they are saying?

What’s more important for the patient who has hearing loss, preventing the spread of COVID-19 or being able to communicate effectively with their doctor? Is there another way to have both?

Today, most guidelines call for six feet of social distancing, whenever possible. At medical centers and health clinics, the doctors and the patients are required to wear a face covering or mask. 

How will the new policies at hospitals and health clinics that require masks and face shields affect the patient’s ability to hear their doctor?

Please watch this video and respond in the comments so we can have a healthy discussion about what’s best for our community who has hearing loss and the most effective way to communicate with our doctors. Of course, as well as helping prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.

A recent study (Goldin et. al, 2020) on the acoustic effects of medical masks found that high-frequency speech information was reduced by 3-4 dB for simple medical masks and close to 12 dB for N95 masks. These findings show that medical masks have an adverse impact on speech understanding.

Well, how about the option for health clinics to use clear face masks? This would allow the patient who relies on lip reading and facial cues to be able to see their doctor’s face during the appointment. Although clear face masks are available, they are not commonly used at this time.

How can we educate doctors and medical providers about the effects of masks on communication? If you share this post or the attached video, the conversation will reach more doctors. That means more healthcare providers will use voice-to-text captioning apps, write down important information, and ask for verbal confirmation that their patients understand the next steps in their treatment process.



  1. Goldin A, Weinstein BE, Shiman N. How do medical masks degrade speech perception? Hearing Review. 2020;27(5):8-9.


Ben Thompson, AuD, is an audiologist and tinnitus expert. He completed his residency at University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) and is a past board member of the California Academy of Audiology. Dr. Thompson founded Treble Health in 2020. Treble Health provides industry-leading telehealth services for hearing aids and tinnitus treatment. Treble’s team of expert Audiologists help you choose hearing aids that are the best match, so you can hear to the best of your potential. The company’s mission is to help you hear well, stay healthy longer, and live a full life with family and friends.

Dr. Thompson hosts a popular YouTube channel that focuses on tinnitus management and hearing health. His videos have gained millions of views. The channel provides independent reviews of hearing aid technology. Dr. Thompson makes YouTube review videos of tinnitus products, OTC hearing aids, and traditional hearing aids. Visit the Treble Health YouTube channel to learn more about today’s newest technology for tinnitus and hearing loss. Get in touch with Treble Health: Treble Health YouTube Treble Health LinkedIn


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