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 grocery store 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. They’re also wearing masks, obviously. However, the mask might not be the only source of your difficulty. It might be your hearing that’s the issue. Or, to say it differently: those muffled voices you hear during the pandemic might be revealing your hearing loss.
Speech is Muffled by a Mask
Most quality masks are manufactured to stop the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. In the instance of COVID-19, that’s rather useful because the majority of evidence points toward water droplets as a prominent factor (even though the science regarding the spread is still being done, so all results are preliminary). Curtailing and preventing COVID-19, as a result, has been shown to be very effective by wearing masks.
Unfortunately, those same masks impede the movement of sound waves. The human voice will be somewhat muffled by a mask. For the majority of individuals, it’s not a problem. But if hearing loss is an issue for you and muffled voices are suddenly all around you, it might be hard for you to make out anything being said.
Your Brain Compensates For Hearing Impairment
But your trouble understanding people wearing masks probably isn’t only because voices are muffled. There’s more to it than that. The thing is, the brain is, to some degree, adept at compensating for variations in sound quality.
Even if you can’t hear what’s happening, 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 particularly lip movements to compensate for what it can’t hear.
Many of these visual hints are hidden when somebody is wearing a mask. The position of someone’s mouth and the motion of their lips is unseen. You can’t even tell if it’s a smile or a frown behind the mask.
Your brain has a very difficult time attempting to interpret what’s being said without that added visual information. 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.
Under regular circumstances, a continually compensating brain can cause significant mental fatigue, often resulting in impatience or memory loss. With masks in place, your brain will become even more fatigued (it’s worthwhile to remember masks are essential protection, so keep them on).
The pandemic is uncovering hearing loss by bringing these concerns to your attention. Hearing loss typically develops slowly over time and may not have been recognized in other circumstances. When your hearing first starts to diminish, you might ignore the symptoms and raise the volume on the television (maybe you don’t even realize you’re doing it).
This is why coming in to see us regularly is so important. We can identify early hearing loss, often before you even notice it, because of the screenings we perform.
If you are having a hard time understanding what people are saying when they’re wearing a mask, this is particularly true. Together we can determine ways to make you more comfortable speaking with people who are wearing a mask. Hearing aids, for instance, can produce significant benefits, allowing you to recover much of your functional hearing range. Voices behind the mask will be easier to hear and comprehend with hearing aids.
Keep Your Mask on
As the pandemic reveals hearing loss, it’s crucial to remember you must keep your mask on. Masks save lives and are frequently mandated. The last thing we should do, regardless of how tempting, is take off our mask.
So leave your mask on, schedule an appointment with us, and wear your hearing aids. Following these guidelines will keep you safe and enhance your quality of life.