You wear your mask when you go out, sometimes two of them, and you generally don’t mind. The only trouble is, sometimes it’s tough to hear what other people are saying. Voices are muffled and even distorted when you go to the store or doctor’s office. Sometimes, you can’t make out anything that’s being said. They’re also wearing masks, of course. However, the mask might not be the exclusive source of your difficulty. The real problem could lie with your hearing. Or, to put it another way: those muffled voices you hear during the pandemic may be revealing your hearing impairment.
Speech is Muffled by a Mask
Most good masks are manufactured to stop the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. In the instance of COVID-19, that’s pretty useful because the majority of evidence points toward water droplets as a contributing factor (all these findings, however, are still in early stages and studies are still being done). As a result, masks have shown to be very effective at curtailing and preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Unfortunately, those same masks interfere with the movement of sound waves. The human voice will be somewhat muffled by a mask. For the majority of people, it’s not a problem. But if hearing loss is an issue for you and muffled voices suddenly surround you, it might be difficult for you to hear anything being said.
Your Brain Compensates For Hearing Loss
The impediment of sound waves probably isn’t the only reason you’re having trouble understanding someone wearing a mask. There’s more going on than that. The thing is, the brain is, to some extent, skilled at compensating for variations in sound quality.
Even if you’re unable to hear what’s going on, your brain will put the situation into context and use that information to interpret what’s being said. Your brain will synthesize things like facial expressions, body language, and especially lip movements to compensate for anything it can’t hear.
Many of these visual indicators are hidden when somebody is wearing a mask. You can’t see the shape of someone’s lips or the alignment of the mouth. You don’t even know if they are frowning or smiling.
Without that added information, it’s more difficult for your brain to make up for the audio clues you aren’t getting automatically. That means you’re more likely to hear nothing but mumbles. And your brain will get tired even if it is able to piece together what was said.
The exhaustion of a brain trying to constantly compensate, under normal circumstances, can lead to memory loss and impatience. 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 issues to your attention. Hearing loss usually advances gradually over time and might not have been noticed in other circumstances. When your hearing first starts to decline, you may dismiss the symptoms and turn up the volume on the television (you may not even notice you’re doing it).
That’s why it’s essential to visit us on a regular basis. We can identify early hearing loss, often before you even notice it, because of the screenings we do.
This is especially true for anyone currently having trouble understanding conversations through a mask. Together we can determine ways to make you more comfortable speaking with people who are wearing a mask. For instance, hearing aids can help you regain a lot of your functional hearing range and can provide other significant benefits. Voices behind the mask will be easier to hear and comprehend with hearing aids.
Keep Your Mask on
As the pandemic exposes hearing loss, it’s essential to remember you will need to keep your mask on. Masks are often mandated or required because they save lives. 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 keep your mask on. These initiatives will ultimately enhance your quality of life, and help keep you safe, as well.