You wear your mask when you go out, sometimes two of them, and you typically don’t mind. Occasionally, however, you have a hard time hearing interactions. When you go to the grocery store or doctor’s appointment, the voices of cashiers and receptionists are muffled, even distorted. Quite often, you can’t make out anything that’s being said. They’re also wearing masks, obviously. However, the mask may not be the exclusive source of your difficulty. The real issue may lie with your hearing. Or, to say it differently: those muffled voices you hear during the pandemic might be uncovering your hearing loss.
Masks Muffle Speech
Most good masks are manufactured to stop the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. The majority of evidence points to airborne water droplets as a contributing factor in the case of COVID-19 so that’s very useful (all these results, however, are still preliminary and research is still being carried out). This means that masks have proven quite effective at curtailing and preventing the spread of COVID-19.
But masks obviously can stop the movement of sound waves. Masks can block the human voice somewhat. For most individuals, it’s not a big deal. But if hearing loss is an issue for you and muffled voices are suddenly all around you, it may be hard for you to comprehend anything being said.
Hearing Impairment Makes Your Brain Work Overtime
The obstruction of sound waves probably isn’t the sole reason you’re having difficulty understanding someone wearing a mask. It’s more involved than that. You see, the brain is extremely good at compensating for changes in your hearing, up to a point.
Without your awareness, your brain makes use of contextual information to help you understand what’s being said, even if you are unable to hear it. Facial expressions, body language, even lip movements are all synthesized by your brain automatically to help you compensate for what you can’t hear.
Many of these visual indicators are hidden when somebody is wearing a mask. The position of somebody’s mouth and the motion of their lips is hidden. You can’t even see if it’s a smile or a frown behind the mask.
Your brain has a very hard time trying 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 fatigue of a brain trying to continually compensate, under typical circumstances, can cause loss of memory and impatience. With masks in place, your brain will become even more tired (it’s important to remember masks are essential protection, so keep them on).
These concerns are being brought into focus and hearing loss is being exposed by the pandemic. It’s not creating the condition in the first place, but it may have otherwise gone undetected because hearing loss commonly advances relatively slowly. In the early phases of hearing loss we typically don’t even notice it and frequently start raising the volume on our devices (you may not even detect this occurring).
That’s why it’s worthwhile to visit us on a regular basis. Because of the variety of screenings we carry out, we can diagnose problems with your hearing early, frequently before you notice it yourself.
This is especially true for anyone presently having difficulty understanding conversations through a mask. Together we can find strategies to make you more comfortable speaking with people wearing a mask. Hearing aids, for instance, can offer substantial benefits, allowing you to recover much of your functional hearing range. Hearing aids will make it a great deal easier to hear, and comprehend the voices behind the masks.
Keep Your Mask on
It’s essential to remember to keep your mask on even as the pandemic reveals hearing loss. Masks are frequently mandated or required because they save lives. 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 keep your mask on, schedule an appointment with us, and wear your hearing aids. These initiatives will inevitably improve your quality of life, and help keep you safe, as well.