Generally, you don’t mind wearing a mask (or sometimes even two) when you leave your house. The only trouble is, sometimes it’s hard to hear what other people are saying. When you go to the supermarket or doctor’s appointment, 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, too. Our face coverings aren’t completely at fault, though. The real issue may be your hearing. Or, to say it differently: those muffled voices you hear during the pandemic could be uncovering your hearing impairment.
The Human Voice is Muffled by a Mask
Most good masks are designed to prevent the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. In the instance of COVID-19, that’s pretty beneficial because the majority of evidence points toward water droplets as a prominent factor (although the science on the spread is still being conducted, so all results are in early stages). As a result, masks have shown to be very effective at curtailing and preventing the spread of COVID-19.
But masks obviously can stop the projection of sound waves. Masks can block the human voice slightly. It’s not really a big problem for most individuals. But if hearing loss is a problem for you and muffled voices are suddenly all around you, it may be hard for you to understand anything being said.
Hearing Impairment Makes Your Brain Work Overtime
But your trouble understanding people wearing masks most likely isn’t only because voices are muffled. It’s more involved than that. The thing is, the brain is, to some degree, adept at compensating for variations in sound quality.
Without your awareness, your brain utilizes contextual information to help you comprehend what’s being said, even if you can’t hear it. Facial expressions, body language, even lip movements are all synthesized by your brain naturally to help you compensate for what you’re unable to hear.
Many of these visual clues are concealed when someone 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 frown or smile behind the mask.
Without that additional information, it’s harder for your brain to compensate 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 continuously compensate, under normal circumstances, can lead to memory loss and impatience. With masks in place, your brain will become even more exhausted (it’s important to remember masks are essential protection, so keep them on).
The pandemic is exposing hearing loss by bringing these issues into focus. It Isn’t causing the condition in the first place, but it might have otherwise gone unnoticed because hearing loss commonly progresses rather slowly. When your hearing first starts to diminish, you may disregard the symptoms and turn up the volume on the television (you might not even recognize this taking place).
That’s why it’s important to visit us on a regular basis. We can detect early hearing loss, often before you even notice it, because of the screenings we do.
If you are having a tough time hearing what people are saying when they’re wearing a mask, this is especially true. Together we can determine ways to make you more comfortable talking with people who are wearing a mask. For example, hearing aids can help you regain a lot of your functional hearing range and can supply other significant benefits. Voices behind the mask will be easier to hear and understand with hearing aids.
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. The last thing we should do, regardless of how tempting, is remove our mask.
So keep your mask on, make 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.