Typically, 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. In some cases, it’s so bad you can hardly perceive a single word. Obviously, they’re wearing masks, as well. However, the mask may not be the exclusive source of your difficulty. The real problem could lie with your hearing. Or, to say it differently: those muffled voices you’re hearing during the pandemic might be revealing your hearing impairment.
The Human Voice is Muffled by a Mask
Most quality masks are made to stop the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. Most evidence indicates airborne water droplets as a contributing factor in the instance of COVID-19 so that’s pretty useful (all these findings, though, are still preliminary and research is still being conducted). Limiting and stopping COVID-19, as a result, has been proven really effective by wearing masks.
However, those same masks interfere with the movement 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 an issue for you and muffled voices suddenly surround you, it could be hard for you to understand anything being said.
Hearing Loss Makes Your Brain Work Overtime
The impediment of sound waves probably isn’t the only reason you’re having trouble understanding someone wearing a mask. There’s more to it than that. You see, the brain is really good at compensating for changes in your hearing, up to a point.
Without your awareness, your brain uses contextual information to help you comprehend what’s being said, even if you are unable to hear it. Your brain will synthesize physical clues like facial expressions, body language, and especially lip movements to compensate for what it can’t hear.
When somebody 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 don’t even know if they are frowning or smiling.
Without that added input, it’s harder for your brain to make up 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.
The exhaustion of a brain trying to constantly compensate, under normal circumstances, can cause loss of memory and irritability. With masks on, your brain will become even more exhausted (it’s worthwhile to remember masks are essential protection, so keep them on).
The pandemic is uncovering hearing loss by bringing these concerns into focus. It’s not creating the condition in the first place, but it might have otherwise gone undetected because hearing loss typically progresses relatively slowly. In the early phases of hearing loss we typically don’t even notice it and frequently start turning up the volume on our devices (you may not even notice this taking place).
This is why coming in to see us regularly is so essential. We can identify early hearing loss, frequently before you even notice it, because of the screenings we perform.
If you’re having a hard time hearing what people are saying when they are wearing a mask, this is particularly true. Together we can find ways to make you more comfortable talking with people wearing a mask. Hearing aids, for example, can offer significant benefits, allowing you to recover much of your functional hearing range. Hearing aids will make it a lot 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 save lives and are frequently mandated. One of the problems with muffled voices is that individuals might be tempted to take off their masks, and that’s the last thing we should be doing.
So schedule an appointment with us, use your hearing aid, and leave your mask on. Following these suggestions will keep you safe and improve your quality of life.