At work we will now have the choice between an Employer-provided non-fitted N95 mask or the 3 layer medical masks we have worn throughout the pandemic. We must wear Employer-provided masks so buying my own isn’t an option.
For those who have done research, which is a better choice?
Background, if it matters:
I work with 19 6 year olds, have a HEPA filter in the room and usually have windows at least part way open. They eat in the classroom but wear (mostly cloth) masks the rest of the time.
It’s already difficult to do reading instruction in a mask. Kids need to be able to see my mouth and hear words clearly. They can’t see my mouth in a mask, obviously, but if an N95 makes me harder to hear vs a medical mask that’s a concern.
I have double vaxxed and boosted and I have no underlying health concerns.
Edited to add: I have had one confirmed case and several suspected cases in my classroom this year and have tested negative each time. There hasn’t been any spread (that we are aware of) within my classroom. All that is pre-omicron, obviously.
Fit is more important than the filtering quality of similar masks... Level III medical masks get decently close to N95s for filtering in real-world results, though even level I are pretty close. the upper levels are more for protection from fluids.
I'd say get samples of both and see what works for your face. What can you wear all day, which doesn't gap or leak? Will you have enough to swap out as one gets damp?
As a second experiment, record yourself talking and listen for the differences between masks...
Thank you! We have lots of the medical masks - we are provided with two a day by board policy but my current principal just gives us a box and we go get a new box when we need it. I’m not sure what that looks like with the N95s, but since we have to wear a mask for outside yard duty it’s a big concern. I always have to change my mask when I come in from outside in cold temps because it’s damp from condensation.
I have found the N95 styles work much better for outdoor cold weather if they are the ones that have a decent gap around the face?? They just seem to get less soggy.
|(self-titled) semi-posting lurker|
Dol, I'm not sure I understand your question -- only bc you offered a lot of info, so I wonder if I'm missing something. You're wanting to know if you should choose the medical mask or the N95, right? But what is your primary concern? Safety, or functionality (in which functionality refers to your ability to speak and your students' ability to hear you)?
Having said that, I think the N95 wins in terms of both safety and functionality, even though it is likely thicker and will reduce audibility slightly more than the medical mask.
Do you have photos of these two types of masks?
In my experience with surgical masks (assuming that's what you're calling a medical mask??), they tend to collapse or sit in contact with part of my face and/or lip/mouth.
With a mask that maintains its shape, which I assume the N95 option you have does, I find it *much* easier to talk, and enunciate, because the mask itself stands slightly away from my face/mouth. This makes a huge difference for me, and I will never go back to using a surgical mask for teaching. (Although I note that surgical masks are much better than most cloth masks in this regard).
As to your students, why do they need to see your mouth? Is English their first language, or second?
I wonder if the main problem is hearing, and because you're not as audible to them, not seeing your mouth then becomes a problem.
I think 19 students, esp. for 6 y/o students, is probably too many, but I know you don't have control over that.
Is there some way you can improve their ability to hear? Could you get a small PA system w/ pin mic?
One thing I learned from going back to singing in choirs with masks is that to be understood, I need to really bring out the consonants, and even space between words more than normal. It helps for talking too.
Especially for glasses - have you seen the stick-on aluminum nose "wire" to add to the outside of a mask? It helps me a lot with fit of the N95 style masks.
Adding a thin strip of nexcare foam tape to the inside of a mask across the area where your nose touches also helps with the seal.
For outdoor/cold weather - realizing that there are almost no confirmed cases from incidental outdoor contact, (The confirmed cases were all people standing close together and talking/shouting) I've even stripped a couple of layers of an KF94 from the inside to make an easy breathing warming mask for walks outside. So far, hasn't gotten soggy or caused fogging, but it hasn't really gotten much below freezing yet.
Fog Free+ available online helps my glasses if used daily.
The Ontario government announced the N95 mask thing on Thursday. Schools are now trying to get them in for our start up Wednesday. So I haven’t seen the N95s. The medical masks are surgical masks and we have been wearing them in class for 15 months. I’m very used to it. I just have heard that fit is key with N95s and we have been explicitly told these are non fitted.
Being able to hear/see lips is crucial to phonetic awareness and learning how to read. My whole class (except two kids) are not where grade ones would typically be in language/reading (obviously due to pandemic issues). It’s a huge issue. I have photos of mouth formation for sounds up in my room to help and I show videos so they can see the mouth move. Usually with struggling kiddos I would have them hold a mirror to watch what their mouth does for sounds they are struggling with. I’m finding with masks they really struggle to hear differences in similar sounds when I say them. Obviously I over enunciate but it’s still not great.
I guess I want to weigh the pros and cons. TBH I am not worried about catching it at this point. I’m double vaxxed, boosted, and otherwise healthy. But I obviously want to do what I can while still keeping in mind that these kiddos deserve a good educational experience. So trying to weigh all factors.
|(self-titled) semi-posting lurker|
Everyone says that about N95s - fit is key. But the thing is, surgical masks don't form-fit to the face, and they still help. I have not seen it discussed in just this way, but it seems likely to me that a non-custom fitted N95 will still offer more filter/protection than a surgical mask, just because of how it's made, even if a non-custom fitted N95 does not offer as much protection as a fitted N95. If you see what I mean.
Here's the other thing to consider with an N95 versus surgical mask: most N95s have straps that go around the head. Some people prefer these, especially bc sometimes tight ear straps can be a pain - in the ear!
But for extended wear, I do *not* like the head straps. I feel like I'm trapped in the mask and it almost makes me claustrophobic. That's how I ended up preferring the KN95s that I wear, bc they all have ear straps. I sometimes will slip outside during a break in classes and take my mask off just briefly. With the head strap model, that is a huge PITA.
Maybe Ron can comment on that? Ron, do you wear the traditional N95 or do you wear one with ear straps?
I'm sorry, this sounds like a huge challenge.
Have you ever asked them to close their eyes? That might sound ridiculous, especially since you're trying to help them bring their reading levels up, but if they can't see your mouth, maybe getting rid of visual information (which is noise, thanks to the mask) will help.
If you can zero on sounds that are problematic for them, have them close their eyes, and you can pronounce words/sounds in minimal pairs -- IOW, pairs of words with only one sound different. Could be a vowel (stare, steer) or could be a consonant (pad, pat), it would depend on the trouble source. Anyway, have them close their eyes and repeat after you. Or close their eyes and listen to you saying the pairs...
Obviously, the eyes-closed part doesn't need to be time-consuming. It's more something I would try to disrupt where their attention is going. Maybe closing their eyes will help them shut out unnecessary information enough to get more from the audio input you can offer them.
One other idea... if the reading problem manifests as a lack of smoothness or inability to get the words out when they come to them, you might try having them move their arms (big movements) rhythmically, as if the "beat" or "tempo" of the word is being visually depicted through arm movements....
I'll stop. I don't know your kids and these ideas might not be helpful to you. But these are some of the things I used to do when I taught English to Japanese elementary kids in Japan. Totally different set of needs, so may not be helpful to you.
But as a linguist, I believe that a lack of visual information that would otherwise be utilized does not mean the kids are incapable of learning these details, it just means 1) it may take more time, and 2) it may take other methods.
This is why I hate that you have 19 kids! If covid/masks means some things are missing from the classroom (namely, visual cues), there should be some other adjustment to compensate (fewer kids!) I'm sorry that's not how it works!
Do you have to pick/commit to the mask type in advance??
|Foregoing Practicing to Post|
I have two N95s but find them difficult to breaths through. The KN 95s are more comfortable.
I accepted a substitute organist job for tomorrow. Will wear the KN and hope it’s sufficient. I’m triple vaxed.
The choice for Dol actually just comes down to 2 different masks, so that should make it easier. Just try them both and stick with which is more comfortable for daily use.
If you were treating infected patients, then there would be a reason to try to determine maximum protection/risk. I don't think it's good to try to overthink things for your situation!
I wear the earloop masks, but will probably look for the clip/hooks to attach behind my head the next time I have a long day of travel. Last time my ears were really sore!
There is a range of "differential pressure" or Delta P that is sometimes documented for each mask. Similar filtration levels can have varying resistance to breathing through. The more resistant ones may feel like they are doing more, but they actually encourage more leakage around the perimeter of the mask. If you want to stick with a N95, KN94 or similar, look for the lowest delta number for easy breathing.
Thanks for the info, everyone! This morning they announced that we are going online for two weeks, so the mask decision has been put on temporary hold. Though I did find out that they are replacing the N95s only every few weeks so that may have made the decision for me. Also, we have to wear our shields as well. Between my glasses, mask loops over the ears, FM system (wraps around the back of the head then sits on the ears) and shield, I think adding an N95 with its snugger fit might be too much!
Shiro - we do so many different things to help sounds “stick”. For many of them it’s just that they haven’t had the same amount of instruction they normally would have had by this point, so everything is just moving a bit more slowly. All of my kids are making progress so we will get there eventually!
|(self-titled) semi-posting lurker|
Does this mean they expect you to wear the same mask for several weeks? And you're not allowed you supply your own??? Or do you mean they give you a set number? Either way, I'm sorry this is so complicated for you!
Re your students' progress, yes, they will get there. Because they have you as their teacher!
Hang in there!!
Yep, they expect folks to wear the same N95 for weeks. Yuck. I’ll stick with the surgical masks!
|Has Achieved Nirvana|
Not cheap, but I don't know why no one suggested this:
|Powered by Social Strata||Page 1 2 3|