Generally, you don’t mind wearing a mask (or sometimes even two) when you go out. The only trouble is, sometimes it’s hard to hear what other people are saying. When you go to the supermarket or visit your doctor’s office, the voices of cashiers and receptionists are muffled, even distorted. Sometimes, you can’t understand anything that’s being said. They’re also wearing masks, obviously. However, the mask might not be the only source of your difficulty. The real issue may lie with your hearing. Or, to say it another way: those muffled voices you hear during the pandemic may be exposing your hearing loss.
Masks Muffle The Human Voice
Most quality masks are manufactured to prevent the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. In the case of COVID-19, that’s pretty useful because most evidence points toward water droplets as a contributing factor (although the science regarding the spread is still being carried out, so all findings are in early stages). As a result, masks have shown to be very effective at limiting and preventing the spread of COVID-19.
However, those same masks hinder the movement of sound waves. Masks can slightly muffle the human voice. It’s not really much of a concern for most individuals. But if you have hearing loss and muffled voices are suddenly all around you, it could be hard for you to understand anything being said.
Hearing Impairment Makes Your Brain Work Overtime
But your difficulty understanding people wearing masks probably isn’t simply because voices are muffled. It’s more involved than that. You see, the brain is really good at compensating for fluctuations in your hearing, up to a point.
Without your awareness, 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 particularly lip movements to compensate for what it can’t hear.
When somebody is wearing a mask, many of those visual cues are hidden. The position of somebody’s mouth and the motion of their lips is hidden. You can’t even tell if it’s a smile or a frown behind the mask.
Your brain has a very difficult time trying to interpret what’s being said without that added visual information. 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.
The fatigue of a brain trying to constantly compensate, under normal circumstances, can lead to loss of memory and irritability. Your brain will become even more fatigued when everyone is wearing a mask (but leave it on because it’s important for community protection).
The pandemic is uncovering hearing loss by bringing these issues to your attention. It’s not creating the condition in the first place, but it might have otherwise gone unnoticed because hearing loss usually progresses relatively slowly. When your hearing first starts to diminish, you might disregard the symptoms and raise the volume on the television (you might not even recognize this happening).
This is why coming in to see us on a regular basis is so important. Because of the types of screenings we do, we can detect issues with your hearing early, frequently before you observe it yourself.
This is particularly true for anyone presently having difficulty comprehending conversations through a mask. We can help you find solutions to help you get through a masked world. Hearing aids, for example, can provide substantial benefits, allowing you to regain a lot of your functional hearing range. Voices behind the mask will be easier to hear and comprehend with hearing aids.
Keep Your Mask on
It’s essential to remember to wear your mask even as the pandemic exposes hearing loss. Masks save lives and are often mandated. One of the problems with muffled voices is that people might be tempted to take off their masks, and that’s the last thing we should do.
So make an appointment with us, wear your hearing aid, and leave your mask on. These efforts will inevitably enhance your quality of life, and help keep you safe, as well.