You wear your mask when you go out, sometimes two of them, and you typically don’t mind. At times, however, you have a tough 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 understand anything that’s being said. They’re also wearing masks, obviously. Our face coverings aren’t really at fault, however. It might be your hearing that’s the issue. Or, to say it differently: those muffled voices you’re hearing during the pandemic could be exposing your hearing impairment.
Masks Muffle The Human Voice
Most quality masks are designed to prevent the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. In the case of COVID-19, that’s pretty useful because the majority of evidence indicates that water droplets as a contributing factor (even though the science regarding the spread is still being done, so all findings are preliminary). As a result, masks have proven very effective at limiting and stopping the spread of COVID-19.
However, those same masks impede the movement of sound waves. Masks can slightly muffle the human voice. For the majority of individuals, it’s not a big deal. But if hearing loss is an issue for you and muffled voices suddenly surround you, it might be difficult for you to make out anything being said.
Hearing Impairment Makes Your Brain Work Overtime
The impediment of sound waves likely isn’t the sole reason you’re having difficulty comprehending 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.
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 clues are concealed 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 smiling or frowning.
Your brain has a really hard time trying 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.
The exhaustion of a brain trying to continuously compensate, under normal circumstances, can result in memory loss and impatience. Your brain will become even more tired 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. Hearing loss normally develops slowly over time and may not have been detected in different circumstances. When your hearing initially begins to diminish, you may ignore the symptoms and raise the volume on the television (maybe you don’t even realize you’re doing it).
This is the reason why coming in to see us regularly is so essential. We can diagnose early hearing loss, often before you even notice it, because of the screenings we perform.
This is especially true for anyone presently having difficulty understanding conversations through a mask. Together we can find strategies to make you more comfortable talking with people wearing a mask. Hearing aids, for instance, can provide considerable benefits, allowing you to regain much of your functional hearing range. Voices behind the mask will be easier to hear and understand with hearing aids.
Keep Your Mask on
It’s important to remember to keep your mask on even as the pandemic reveals hearing loss. Masks save lives and are often mandated. 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 be doing.
So schedule an appointment with us, use your hearing aid, and keep your mask on. These initiatives will inevitably improve your quality of life, and help keep you safe, as well.