Research Article|Articles in Press

How Face Masks Affect Acoustic and Auditory Perceptual Characteristics of the Singing Voice


      Wearing a face mask has been accepted as one of the most effective ways for slowing the spread of COVID-19. Yet information regarding the degree to which masks affect acoustics and perception associated with voice performers is scarce. This study examines these effects with common face masks, namely a neck gaiter, disposable surgical mask, and N95 mask, as well as a novel material that could be used as a mask (acoustic foam). A recorded excerpt from the “Star-Spangled Banner” was played through a miniature speaker placed inside the mouth of a masked manikin. Experienced listeners were asked to rate perceptual qualities of these singing stimuli by blindly comparing them with the same recording captured without a mask. Acoustic analysis showed that face masks affected the sound by enhancing or suppressing different frequency bands compared to no mask. Acoustic energy around the singer's formant was reduced when using surgical and N95 masks, which matches observations that these masks are more detrimental to the perceptions of singing voice compared with neck gaiter or acoustic foam. It suggests that singers can benefit from masks designed for minimal impact on auditory perception of the singing voice while maintaining reasonable efficacy of filtering efficiency.

      Key Words

      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Journal of Voice
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


      1. Grosses - Broadway in NYC. The Broadway League. Accessed December 09, 2020

        • Hamner L
        • Dubbel P
        • Capron I
        • et al.
        High SARS-CoV-2 Attack Rate Following Exposure at a Choir Practice — Skagit County, Washington, March 2020.
        Morbid Mort Wkl Rep (MMWR). 2020; 69: 606-610
      2. Scientific Brief: SARS-CoV-2 and Potential Airborne Transmission. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Vol 2020: Centers for Disease Control

        • Morawska L
        • Johnson G
        • Ristovski Z
        • et al.
        Size distribution and sites of origin of droplets expelled from the human respiratory tract during expiratory activities.
        J Aerosol Science. 2009; 40: 256-269
        • Duguid JP
        The size and the duration of air-carriage of respiratory droplets and droplet-nuclei.
        Epidemiol Infect. 1946; 44: 471-479
        • Van Doremalen N
        • Bushmaker T
        • Morris DH
        • et al.
        Aerosol and surface stability of SARS-CoV-2 as compared with SARS-CoV-1.
        N Engl J Med. 2020; 382: 1564-1567
        • Pan J
        • Harb C
        • Leng W
        • et al.
        Inward and outward effectiveness of cloth masks, a surgical mask, and a face shield.
        Aerosol Sci Tech. 2021; : 1-16
        • Tcharkhtchi A
        • Abbasnezhad N
        • Seydani MZ
        • et al.
        An overview of filtration efficiency through the masks: mechanisms of the aerosols penetration.
        Bioactive Mat. 2021; 6: 106-122
        • Asadi S
        • Cappa CD
        • Barreda S
        • et al.
        Efficacy of masks and face coverings in controlling outward aerosol particle emission from expiratory activities.
        Sci Rep. 2020; 10 (15665): 1-13
        • Eikenberry SE
        • Mancuso M
        • Iboi E
        • et al.
        To mask or not to mask: modeling the potential for face mask use by the general public to curtail the COVID-19 pandemic.
        Infect Dis Model. 2020; 5: 293-308
        • Liang M
        • Gao L
        • Cheng C
        • et al.
        Efficacy of face mask in preventing respiratory virus transmission: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
        Travel Med Infect Dis. 2020; 36101751
        • Gandhi M
        • Beyrer C
        • Goosby E
        Masks do more than protect others during COVID-19: reducing the inoculum of SARS-CoV-2 to protect the wearer.
        J Gen Intern Med. 2020; 35: 3063-3066
        • Palmiero AJ
        • Symons D
        • Morgan III, JW
        • et al.
        Speech intelligibility assessment of protective facemasks and air-purifying respirators.
        J Occup Environ Hyg. 2016; 13: 960-968
        • Mendel LL
        • Gardino JA
        • Atcherson SR
        Speech understanding using surgical masks: a problem in health care?.
        J Am Acad Audiol. 2008; 19: 686-695
        • Saeidi R
        • Huhtakallio I
        • Alku P
        Analysis of face mask effect on speaker recognition.
        Interspeech. 2016; : 1800-1804
        • Fecher N
        Effects of Forensically-Relevant Facial Concealment on Acoustic and Perceptual Properties of Consonants.
        University of York, 2014 (Doctoral dissertation)
        • Asadi S
        • Wexler AS
        • Cappa CD
        • et al.
        Effect of voicing and articulation manner on aerosol particle emission during human speech.
        PLoS One. 2020; 15e0227699
        • Asadi S
        • Wexler AS
        • Cappa CD
        • et al.
        Aerosol emission and superemission during human speech increase with voice loudness.
        Sci Rep. 2019; 9 (2348): 1-10
        • Ekholm E
        • Papagiannis GC
        • Chagnon FP
        Relating objective measurements to expert evaluation of voice quality in western classical singing: critical perceptual parameters.
        J Voice. 1998; 12: 182-196
        • Sundberg J
        • Rossing TD
        The Science of Singing Voice.
        Northern Illinois University Press, 1987
        • Hillenbrand JM
        • Gayvert RT
        Open source software for experiment design and control.
        J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2005; 48: 45-60
        • Shrout PE
        • Fleiss JL
        Intraclass correlations: uses in assessing rater reliability.
        Psychol Bull. 1979; 86: 420-428
        • Eckert DJ
        • White DP
        • Jordan AS
        • et al.
        Defining phenotypic causes of obstructive sleep apnea. Identification of novel therapeutic targets.
        Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2013; 188: 996-1004
        • Gupta C
        • Li H
        • Wang Y
        Perceptual evaluation of singing quality.
        in: 2017 Asia-Pacific Signal and Information Processing Association Annual Summit and Conference (APSIPA ASC). IEEE, 2017: 577-586
        • Oates JM
        • Bain B
        • Davis P
        • et al.
        Development of an auditory-perceptual rating instrument for the operatic singing voice.
        J Voice. 2006; 20: 71-81
      3. Filtration efficiency of acoustic foam materials. Unpublished results

        • O’Kelly E
        • Pirog S
        • Ward J
        • et al.
        Ability of fabric face mask materials to filter ultrafine particles at coughing velocity.
        BMJ Open. 2020; 10e039424
        • Sundberg J
        Level and center frequency of the singer’s formant.
        J Voice. 2001; 15: 176-186