You wear your mask when you go out, sometimes two of them, and you generally don’t mind. Sometimes, though, you have a hard time hearing interactions. Voices are muffled and even distorted when you go to the doctor’s office or store. Sometimes, you can’t make out anything that’s being said. Obviously, they’re wearing masks, as well. However, the mask may not be the only source of your difficulty. It might be your hearing that’s the problem. Or, to put it another way: those muffled voices you’re hearing during the pandemic could be revealing your hearing impairment.
Masks Muffle Speech
Most good masks are made to prevent the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. In the case of COVID-19, that’s rather beneficial because the majority of evidence points toward water droplets as a prominent factor (although the science regarding the spread is still being conducted, so all findings are in early stages). As a result, masks have proven very effective at curtailing and preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Unfortunately, those same masks hinder the movement of sound waves. The human voice will be a bit muffled by a mask. It’s not really a big concern for most people. But if you have hearing loss and muffled voices suddenly surround you, it might be difficult for you to understand anything being said.
Your Brain Compensates For Hearing Impairment
The obstruction of sound waves likely isn’t the only reason you’re having trouble understanding someone wearing a mask. It’s more involved than that. The thing is, the brain is, to some extent, skilled at compensating for fluctuations in sound quality.
Without you recognizing it, your brain uses contextual information to help you comprehend what’s being said, even if you can’t hear it. Facial expressions, body language, even lip movements are all synthesized by your brain automatically to help you compensate for what you’re unable to hear.
When somebody is wearing a mask, many of those linguistic cues are concealed. The position of someone’s mouth and the movements of their lips is hidden. You don’t even know if they are frowning or smiling.
Without that additional information, it’s more difficult for your brain to compensate for the audio clues 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 regular circumstances, a continuously compensating brain can cause considerable mental exhaustion, sometimes resulting in irritability or memory loss. With masks in place, your brain will become even more fatigued (it’s important to remember masks are essential protection, so keep them on).
These issues are being brought into focus and hearing loss is being exposed by the pandemic. It’s not causing the condition in the first place, but it may have otherwise gone undetected because hearing loss usually progresses relatively slowly. In the early phases of hearing loss we usually don’t even detect it and often start turning up the volume on our devices (you may not even realize you’re doing it).
That’s why it’s worthwhile to visit us regularly. Because of the types of screenings we perform, we can detect issues with your hearing early, often before you notice it yourself.
If you are having a hard time hearing what people are saying when they are wearing a mask, this is particularly true. Together we can determine strategies to make you more comfortable talking with people who are wearing a mask. 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 great deal easier to hear, and comprehend the voices behind the masks.
Keep Your Mask on
As the pandemic exposes hearing loss, it’s crucial to remember you will need to keep your mask on. Masks save lives and are frequently mandated. The last thing we should do, regardless of how tempting, is take off our mask.
So make an appointment with us, wear your hearing aid, and leave your mask on. These initiatives will inevitably improve your quality of life, and help keep you safe, as well.