Generally, you don’t mind wearing a mask (or sometimes even two) when you leave your house. Occasionally, though, you have a tough time hearing conversations. When you go to the grocery store or visit your doctor’s office, the voices of cashiers and receptionists are muffled, even distorted. At times, it’s so bad you can scarcely grasp a single word. Obviously, they’re wearing masks, too. However, the mask may not be the exclusive source of your trouble. It might be your hearing that’s the problem. Or, to say it another way: those muffled voices you’re hearing during the pandemic could be uncovering your hearing impairment.
Speech is Muffled by a Mask
Most quality masks are manufactured to prevent the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. The majority of evidence points to airborne water droplets as a contributing factor in the instance of COVID-19 so that’s pretty useful (all these results, however, are still in early stages and studies are still being done). As a result, masks have proven very effective at limiting and preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Unfortunately, those same masks impede 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 individuals. But if you have hearing loss and muffled voices suddenly surround you, it could 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. It’s more involved than that. You see, the brain is really good at compensating for changes in your hearing, up to a point.
Even if you’re unable to hear what’s going on, your brain will put the event into context and use that information to interpret what’s being said. Body language, facial expressions, even lip movements are all synthesized by your brain naturally to help you compensate for what you’re unable to hear.
When someone is wearing a mask, many of those visual cues are obscured. The position of someone’s mouth and the motion of their lips is unseen. You can’t even tell if it’s a smile or a frown behind the mask.
Your brain has a very difficult time attempting to interpret what’s being said without that extra visual information. So mumbling is probably all you will hear. And your brain will get tired even if it is able to piece together what was said.
Under regular conditions, a continuously compensating brain can cause significant mental fatigue, sometimes resulting in impatience or memory loss. Your brain will become even more fatigued when everybody is wearing a mask (but leave it on because it’s essential for community protection).
The pandemic is revealing hearing loss by bringing these concerns into focus. Hearing loss typically advances gradually over time and might not have been detected in other circumstances. When your hearing initially begins to diminish, you might ignore the symptoms and turn up the volume on the television (maybe you don’t even realize you’re doing it).
This is why coming in to see us on a regular basis is so important. We can identify early hearing loss, frequently before you even notice it, because of the screenings we carry out.
If you are having a hard time understanding what people are saying when they’re wearing a mask, this is especially true. Together we can determine ways to make you more comfortable conversing with people wearing a mask. For example, hearing aids can help you recover a lot of your functional hearing range and can provide other significant benefits. 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 reveals hearing loss, it’s crucial to remember you will need to keep your mask on. Masks save lives and are often mandated. One of the problems with muffled voices is that people might be tempted to remove their masks, and that’s the last thing we should do.
So schedule an appointment with us, wear your hearing aid, and keep your mask on. Sticking with these guidelines will keep you safe and improve your quality of life.