You wear your mask when you leave your house, sometimes more than one, and you generally don’t mind. Occasionally, however, you have a hard time hearing conversations. Voices are muffled and even distorted when you go to the doctor’s office or store. At times, it’s so bad you can scarcely perceive a single word. They’re also wearing masks, of course. However, the mask might not be the exclusive source of your difficulty. The real issue could lie with your hearing. Or, to say it differently: those muffled voices you hear during the pandemic could be exposing your hearing impairment.
Speech is Muffled by a Mask
Most good masks are designed to prevent the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. In the case of COVID-19, that’s pretty beneficial because the majority of evidence points toward water droplets as a contributing factor (although the science on the spread is still being conducted, so all findings are in early stages). This means that masks have shown to be very effective at curtailing and preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Unfortunately, those same masks interfere with the movement of sound waves. The human voice will be a bit muffled by a mask. It’s not really a big concern for most individuals. But if you suffer from hearing loss and muffled voices suddenly surround you, it could be hard for you to comprehend 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 extent, adept at compensating for variations in sound quality.
Even if you’re unable to hear what’s going on, your brain will put the event 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 anything it can’t hear.
When somebody is wearing a mask, many of those visual cues are hidden. You can’t see the shape of someone’s lips or the alignment of the mouth. You can’t even tell if it’s a smile or a frown behind the mask.
Your brain has a really hard time trying to translate what’s being said without that added visual information. So mumbling is probably all you will hear. Even if your brain can, somehow, make sense of what was said, your brain will get tired.
Under regular circumstances, a constantly compensating brain can cause significant mental fatigue, often resulting in irritability or loss of memory. With masks in place, your brain will become even more exhausted (it’s important to remember masks are essential protection, so keep them on).
These issues are being brought to your attention 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 unnoticed because hearing loss usually progresses rather slowly. In the early phases of hearing loss we usually don’t even detect it and often start turning up the volume on our devices (you might not even detect this taking place).
That’s why it’s essential to visit us on a regular basis. Because of the types of screenings we do, we can detect problems with your hearing early, often before you notice it yourself.
If you are having a difficult time understanding what people are saying when they are wearing a mask, this is especially true. We can help you find solutions to help you navigate a masked world. Hearing aids, for instance, can provide considerable benefits, allowing you to recover a lot 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 wear your mask even as the pandemic exposes hearing loss. Masks save lives and are often mandated. The last thing we should do, no matter how tempting, is take off our mask.
So make an appointment with us, wear your hearing aid, and leave your mask on. Following these guidelines will keep you safe and improve your quality of life.