Typically, you don’t mind wearing a mask (or sometimes even two) when you go out. Sometimes, though, you have a hard time hearing interactions. 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 barely grasp a single word. Naturally, they’re wearing masks, too. However, the mask may not be the only source of your trouble. It might be your hearing that’s the problem. Or, to say it differently: those muffled voices you’re hearing during the pandemic could be revealing your hearing impairment.
Masks Muffle The Human Voice
Most good masks are manufactured to prevent the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. In the instance of COVID-19, that’s pretty beneficial because most evidence indicates that water droplets as a contributing factor (all these findings, however, are still in early stages and studies are still being done). This means that masks have shown to be quite successful at limiting and preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Unfortunately, those same masks hinder the projection of sound waves. Masks can slightly muffle the human voice. It’s not really a big problem for most individuals. But if hearing loss is a problem for you and muffled voices suddenly surround you, it might be difficult for you to comprehend anything being said.
Your Brain Compensates For Hearing Impairment
But your difficulty understanding people wearing masks most likely isn’t simply because voices are muffled. It’s more involved than that. You see, the brain is really good at compensating for fluctuations in your hearing, up to a point.
Without you recognizing it, your brain utilizes contextual information to help you comprehend what’s being said, even if you can’t hear it. Your brain will synthesize physical clues like facial expressions, body language, and particularly lip movements to compensate for what it can’t hear.
When somebody is wearing a mask, many of those linguistic cues are obscured. The position of somebody’s mouth and the movements of their lips is hidden. You can’t even see if it’s a smile or a frown behind the mask.
Without that added input, it’s more difficult for your brain to compensate for the audio information 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 continually compensate, under typical circumstances, can lead to loss of memory and impatience. Your brain will become even more tired when everyone is wearing a mask (but leave it on because it’s essential for community protection).
The pandemic is revealing hearing loss by bringing these issues to your attention. It’s not causing the condition in the first place, but it might have otherwise gone undetected because hearing loss usually progresses rather slowly. In the early phases of hearing loss we usually don’t even notice it and frequently start turning up the volume on our devices (you might not even detect this happening).
That’s why it’s important to visit us regularly. We can identify early hearing loss, frequently before you even notice it, because of the screenings we carry out.
This is especially true for anyone presently having difficulty comprehending conversations through a mask. Together we can find strategies to make you more comfortable speaking with people wearing a mask. For example, hearing aids can help you get back a lot of your functional hearing range and can provide other significant benefits. Hearing aids will make it a great deal easier to hear, and understand the voices behind the masks.
Keep Your Mask on
It’s important to remember to wear your mask even as the pandemic reveals hearing loss. Masks are often mandated or required because they save lives. One of the issues with muffled voices is that individuals might be tempted to take off their masks, and that’s the last thing we should do.
So schedule an appointment with us, wear your hearing aid, and keep your mask on. These efforts will inevitably improve your quality of life, and help keep you safe, as well.