Generally, you don’t mind wearing a mask (or sometimes even two) when you go out. Occasionally, however, you have a tough time hearing conversations. When you go to the supermarket or doctor’s appointment, the voices of cashiers and receptionists are muffled, even distorted. Sometimes, you can’t make out anything that’s being said. They’re also wearing masks, of course. Our face coverings aren’t really at fault, however. 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 revealing your hearing impairment.
Masks Muffle Speech
Most quality masks are designed to prevent the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. Most evidence points to airborne water droplets as a contributing factor in the case of COVID-19 so that’s pretty useful (although the science regarding the spread is still being done, so all findings are in early stages). As a result, masks have proven very effective at curtailing and preventing the spread of COVID-19.
However, those same masks hinder the projection of sound waves. The human voice will be a bit muffled by a mask. It’s not really much of a concern for most people. But if hearing loss is a problem for you and muffled voices suddenly surround you, it might be hard for you to make out anything being said.
Your Brain Compensates For Hearing Loss
But your difficulty understanding people wearing masks most likely isn’t only because voices are muffled. There’s more going on than that. The thing is, the brain is, to some extent, skilled at compensating for fluctuations in sound quality.
Even if you’re unable to hear what’s happening, your brain will put the event into context and use that information to interpret what’s being said. Facial expressions, body language, 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 linguistic cues are concealed. The position of someone’s mouth and the motion of their lips is unseen. You don’t even know if they are frowning or smiling.
Without that additional input, it’s more difficult for your brain to make up for the audio clues you aren’t receiving automatically. 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 circumstances, a continually compensating brain can cause considerable mental exhaustion, often resulting in irritability or memory loss. Your brain will become even more exhausted 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 into focus. It Isn’t causing the condition in the first place, but it may have otherwise gone undetected because hearing loss typically advances relatively slowly. In the early phases of hearing loss we usually don’t even notice it and often start raising the volume on our devices (you may not even recognize this occurring).
That’s why it’s important to visit us on a regular basis. Because of the variety of screenings we do, we can identify problems with your hearing early, often before you observe it yourself.
If you’re having a difficult time understanding what people are saying when they’re wearing a mask, this is particularly true. We can help you find solutions to help you get through a masked world. For instance, 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 understand the voices behind the masks.
Keep Your Mask on
It’s important to remember to wear your mask even as the pandemic exposes hearing loss. Masks are often mandated or required because they save lives. The last thing we should do, regardless of how tempting, is remove our mask.
So schedule an appointment with us, use your hearing aid, and leave your mask on. These initiatives will inevitably enhance your quality of life, and help keep you safe, as well.