Original Research

Health sciences students’ perception of the communicative impacts of face coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic at a South African University

Nasim B. Khan, Nolwazi Mthembu, Aishwarya Narothan, Zamahlase Sibisi, Qiniso Vilane
South African Journal of Communication Disorders | Vol 69, No 2 | a890 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajcd.v69i2.890 | © 2022 Nasim B. Khan, Nolwazi Mthembu, Aishwarya Narothan, Zamahlase Sibisi, Qiniso Vilane | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 January 2022 | Published: 27 July 2022

About the author(s)

Nasim B. Khan, Discipline of Audiology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Nolwazi Mthembu, Discipline of Audiology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Aishwarya Narothan, Discipline of Audiology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Zamahlase Sibisi, Discipline of Audiology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Qiniso Vilane, Discipline of Audiology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa


Share this article

Bookmark and Share

Abstract

Background: The use of face masks and/or shields can pose a challenge during communication. They block facial expressions thus removing visual cues and affect sound transmission making it difficult to hear speech clearly. Given the widespread use of face coverings, it seems reasonable to clarify if communication in typical speakers and listeners has significantly differed. Health science students as future practitioners need to understand challenges that arise from using face coverings.

Objective: This study aimed to determine health sciences students’ perception of the communicative impacts of face coverings.

Method: The study employed a descriptive, self-administered online survey, obtaining information from 96 health science undergraduate students.

Results: All participants changed their manner of speaking in that they spoke louder when wearing masks and focused more on eye contact when someone was wearing masks. These were statistically significant (p = 0.450 and p = 0.035 respectively). Fifty-three percent reported using more listening effort and feeling anxious when communicating. Approximately 33% indicated that it was challenging to read emotions, such as sad or unhappy, when someone wore a mask. Most, 61%, were positive or very positive about wearing masks. The level of difficulty differed depending on the listening environment. It was harder to understand the doctor, nurse, or other healthcare workers when they wore face coverings than when listening to their friends and family, which had little effect, this being statistically significant (p = 0.025).

Conclusion: Challenges envisaged in practice included frequent communication breakdowns, inability to connect and build trust between patient and practitioner, and communicating in noisy environments. Coping strategies, future clinical and research implications were proposed, and limitations acknowledged.


Keywords

communicative impacts; face coverings; COVID-19 pandemic; perceptions; challenges

Metrics

Total abstract views: 840
Total article views: 573

 

Crossref Citations

1. The impact of COVID-19 on speech–language and hearing professions in low- and middle-income countries: Challenges and opportunities explored
Katijah Khoza-Shangase, Nomfundo Moroe, Joanne Neille, Anita Edwards
South African Journal of Communication Disorders  vol: 69  issue: 2  year: 2022  
doi: 10.4102/sajcd.v69i2.937