Typically, you don’t mind wearing a mask (or sometimes even two) when you go out. Sometimes, however, you have a tough time hearing conversations. When you go to the grocery store or doctor’s appointment, the voices of cashiers and receptionists are muffled, even distorted. Sometimes, you can’t understand anything that’s being said. Naturally, they’re wearing masks, as well. However, the mask might not be the exclusive source of your trouble. The real issue may lie with your hearing. Or, to say it differently: those muffled voices you’re hearing during the pandemic may be uncovering your hearing loss.
Masks Muffle Speech
Most good masks are manufactured to stop the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. In the case of COVID-19, that’s rather useful because the majority of evidence indicates that water droplets as a contributing factor (although the science on the spread is still being carried out, so all results are in early stages). Curtailing and preventing COVID-19, consequently, has been proven really practical by wearing masks.
Unfortunately, those same masks impede the projection of sound waves. Masks can slightly muffle the human voice. For the majority of people, it’s not a problem. But if hearing loss is a problem for you and muffled voices are suddenly all around you, it may be difficult for you to hear anything being said.
Your Brain Compensates For Hearing Loss
But your trouble understanding people wearing masks probably isn’t simply because voices are muffled. There’s more going on than that. The thing is, the brain is, to some extent, adept at compensating for fluctuations in sound quality.
Without you recognizing it, your brain utilizes contextual information to help you comprehend what’s being said, even if you can’t hear it. Your brain will synthesize physical clues like facial expressions, body language, and especially lip movements to compensate for anything it can’t hear.
Many of these visual indicators are hidden when someone is wearing a mask. You can’t see the shape of somebody’s lips or the position of the mouth. You don’t even know if they are frowning or smiling.
Without that added input, it’s more difficult for your brain to compensate for the audio clues you aren’t receiving automatically. So mumbling is probably all you will hear. Even if your brain can, somehow, make sense of what was said, your brain will get tired.
Under regular circumstances, a continually compensating brain can cause considerable mental exhaustion, sometimes resulting in irritability or loss of memory. Your brain will become even more exhausted when everyone is wearing a mask (but keep it on because it’s essential for community protection).
The pandemic is uncovering hearing loss by bringing these issues into focus. Hearing loss typically advances gradually over time and may not have been detected in other circumstances. In the early phases of hearing loss we normally don’t even detect it and frequently start raising the volume on our devices (you may not even know you’re doing it).
This is why coming in to see us on a regular basis is so important. Because of the kinds of screenings we do, we can identify problems with your hearing early, frequently before you observe it yourself.
If you’re having a tough time understanding what people are saying when they’re wearing a mask, this is especially true. We can help you discover strategies to help you navigate a masked world. Hearing aids, for example, can provide significant benefits, allowing you to recover a lot of your functional hearing range. Hearing aids will make it a lot easier to hear, and understand the voices behind the masks.
Keep Your Mask on
As the pandemic exposes hearing loss, it’s essential to remember you will need to keep your mask on. Masks save lives and are often mandated. The last thing we should do, no matter how tempting, is take off our mask.
So schedule an appointment with us, use your hearing aid, and leave your mask on. These efforts will inevitably improve your quality of life, and help keep you safe, as well.