Introduction Recent terror attacks and assassinations involving highly toxic chemical weapons have stressed the importance of sufficient respiratory protection of medical first responders and receivers. As full-face respirators cause perceptual-motor impairment, they not only impair vision but also significantly reduce speech intelligibility. The recent introduction of electronic voice projection units (VPUs), attached to a respirator, may improve communication while wearing personal respiratory protection.
Objective To determine the influence of currently used respirators and VPUs on medical communication and speech intelligibility.
Methods 37 trauma anaesthetists carried out an evaluation exercise of six different respirators and VPUs including one control. Participants had to listen to audio clips of a variety of sentences dealing with scenarios of emergency triage and medical history taking.
Results In the questionnaire, operators stated that speech intelligibility of the Avon C50 respirator scored the highest (mean 3.9, ±SD 1.0) and that the Respirex Powered Respiratory Protective Suit (PRPS) NHS-suit scored lowest (1.6, 0.9). Regarding loudness the C50 plus the Avon VPU scored highest (4.1, 0.7), followed by the Draeger FPS-7000-com-plus (3.4, 1.0) and the Respirex PRPS NHS-suit scored lowest (2.3, 0.8).
Conclusions We found that the Avon C50 is the preferred model among the tested respirators. In our model, electronic voice projection modules improved loudness but not speech intelligibility. The Respirex PRPS NHS-suit was rated significantly less favourably in respect of medical communication and speech intelligibility.
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