You wear your mask when you leave your house, sometimes more than one, and you generally don’t mind. Occasionally, though, you have a hard time hearing conversations. When you go to the grocery store or doctor’s appointment, the voices of cashiers and receptionists are muffled, even distorted. Sometimes, you can’t understand anything that’s being said. They’re also wearing masks, obviously. However, the mask might not be the only source of your trouble. The real issue could be your hearing. Or, to put it another way: those muffled voices you’re hearing during the pandemic might be exposing your hearing impairment.
Masks Muffle Speech
Most quality masks are designed to stop the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. In the case of COVID-19, that’s pretty useful because most evidence indicates that water droplets as a prominent factor (all these findings, however, are still preliminary and studies are still being done). Limiting and preventing COVID-19, as a result, has been proven very practical by wearing masks.
Unfortunately, those same masks impede the movement of sound waves. Masks can block the human voice slightly. It’s not really a big concern for most individuals. But if hearing loss is a problem for you and muffled voices are suddenly all around you, it might be hard for you to make out anything being said.
Hearing Loss Makes Your Brain Work Harder
The impediment of sound waves probably isn’t the only reason you’re having difficulty understanding someone wearing a mask. There’s more to it than that. You see, the brain is very good at compensating for fluctuations in your hearing, up to a point.
Without you recognizing it, your brain utilizes contextual information to help you understand what’s being said, even if you can’t hear it. Your brain will synthesize things like facial expressions, body language, and particularly 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 somebody’s lips or the position of the mouth. You don’t even know if they are smiling or frowning.
Your brain has a very difficult time attempting to interpret what’s being said without that added 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.
The exhaustion of a brain trying to continuously compensate, under typical circumstances, can cause memory loss and irritability. Your brain will become even more fatigued when everybody is wearing a mask (but keep it on because it’s essential for community protection).
The pandemic is exposing hearing loss by bringing these issues to your attention. It’s not creating the condition in the first place, but it may have otherwise gone unnoticed because hearing loss commonly progresses relatively slowly. When your hearing first starts to diminish, you might ignore the symptoms and raise the volume on the television (you may not even notice you’re doing it).
This is why coming in to see us on a regular basis is so essential. We can identify early hearing loss, frequently before you even notice it, because of the screenings we perform.
This is especially true for anybody presently having difficulty understanding conversations through a mask. Together we can determine strategies to make you more comfortable conversing with people wearing a mask. 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 much easier to hear, and understand the voices behind the masks.
Keep Your Mask on
As the pandemic exposes hearing loss, it’s important to remember you must keep your mask on. Masks save lives and are frequently mandated. One of the issues with muffled voices is that people may be tempted to take off their masks, and that’s the last thing we should be doing.
So leave your mask on, make an appointment with us, and wear your hearing aids. These efforts will ultimately enhance your quality of life, and help keep you safe, as well.