Typically, you don’t mind wearing a mask (or sometimes even two) when you go out. Occasionally, however, you have a tough time hearing interactions. When you go to the supermarket or visit your doctor’s office, the voices of cashiers and receptionists are muffled, even distorted. Quite often, you can’t understand anything that’s being said. They’re also wearing masks, of course. However, the mask may not be the only source of your trouble. The real issue may be your hearing. Or, to say it another way: those muffled voices you hear during the pandemic might be revealing your hearing loss.
Masks Muffle Speech
Most quality masks are designed to prevent the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. In the instance of COVID-19, that’s pretty beneficial because the majority of evidence points toward water droplets as a prominent factor (all these results, though, are still in early stages and studies are still being carried out). As a result, masks have shown to be very effective at curtailing and stopping the spread of COVID-19.
But masks obviously can stop the projection of sound waves. Masks can slightly muffle the human voice. For the majority of individuals, 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.
Hearing Loss Makes Your Brain Work Harder
But your difficulty 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, skilled at compensating for variations in sound quality.
Without you recognizing it, your brain makes use of contextual information to help you understand what’s being said, even if you are unable to hear it. Your brain will synthesize things like facial expressions, body language, and especially lip movements to compensate for what it can’t hear.
Many of these visual hints are hidden when somebody is wearing a mask. The position of someone’s mouth and the motion of their lips is unseen. You can’t even see if it’s a frown or smile behind the mask.
Without that added input, it’s more difficult for your brain to compensate for the audio information you aren’t receiving automatically. That means you’re more likely to hear nothing but mumbles. Even if your brain can, somehow, make sense of what was said, your brain will get tired.
Under normal conditions, a continually compensating brain can cause considerable mental exhaustion, sometimes resulting in irritability or loss of memory. With masks on, your brain will become even more tired (it’s important to remember masks are essential protection, so keep them on).
The pandemic is exposing hearing loss by bringing these concerns to your attention. Hearing loss typically advances gradually over time and may not have been detected in other circumstances. In the early stages of hearing loss we usually don’t even detect it and often start turning up the volume on our devices (you might not even recognize this occurring).
This is why coming in to see us on a regular basis is so essential. Because of the kinds of screenings we carry out, we can diagnose issues with your hearing early, frequently before you notice it yourself.
If you’re having a tough time understanding what people are saying when they are wearing a mask, this is particularly true. Together we can find strategies to make you more comfortable conversing with people wearing a mask. For example, hearing aids can help you get back a lot of your functional hearing range and can provide other significant benefits. Hearing aids will make it much easier to hear, and understand the voices behind the masks.
Keep Your Mask on
As the pandemic exposes hearing loss, it’s important to remember you must keep your mask on. Masks are frequently mandated or required because they save lives. The last thing we should do, regardless of how tempting, is take off our mask.
So schedule an appointment with us, wear your hearing aid, and keep your mask on. These initiatives will inevitably enhance your quality of life, and help keep you safe, as well.