Generally, you don’t mind wearing a mask (or sometimes even two) when you go out. 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. Sometimes, you can’t make out anything that’s being said. Of course, they’re wearing masks, too. Our face coverings aren’t totally at fault, however. The real issue could lie with your hearing. Or, to say it another way: those muffled voices you’re hearing during the pandemic might be revealing your hearing loss.
Masks Muffle The Human Voice
Most quality masks are designed to stop 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 (all these findings, though, are still preliminary and studies are still being done). As a result, masks have shown to be very effective at limiting and preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Unfortunately, those same masks interfere with the projection of sound waves. Masks can block the human voice slightly. It’s not really much of a problem for most individuals. But if you suffer from hearing loss and muffled voices are suddenly all around you, it might be difficult for you to hear 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. The thing is, the brain is, to some extent, skilled at compensating for variations in sound quality.
Even if you’re unable to hear what’s happening, your brain will put the situation into context and use that information to interpret what’s being said. Facial expressions, body language, even lip movements are all synthesized by your brain naturally to help you compensate for what you can’t hear.
When someone is wearing a mask, many of those visual cues are obscured. You can’t see the shape of somebody’s lips or the position of the mouth. You can’t even tell if it’s a frown or smile behind the mask.
Without that added input, it’s harder for your brain to compensate for the audio clues you aren’t receiving automatically. So mumbling is probably all you will hear. And your brain will get tired even if it is able to piece together what was said.
The fatigue of a brain trying to continuously compensate, under typical circumstances, can lead to loss of memory and irritability. Your brain will become even more fatigued when everybody is wearing a mask (but leave it on because it’s important for community protection).
These concerns are being brought to your attention and hearing loss is being uncovered by the pandemic. It’s not creating the condition in the first place, but it might have otherwise gone unnoticed because hearing loss usually progresses relatively slowly. When your hearing first starts to decline, you might ignore the symptoms and raise the volume on the television (maybe you don’t even know you’re doing it).
That’s why it’s worthwhile to visit us regularly. We can diagnose early hearing loss, often before you even notice it, because of the screenings we perform.
If you are having a tough time hearing what people are saying when they’re wearing a mask, this is particularly true. Together we can determine strategies to make you more comfortable speaking with people wearing a mask. For instance, hearing aids can help you get back a lot of your functional hearing range and can supply other significant benefits. Hearing aids will make it much easier to hear, and comprehend the voices behind the masks.
Keep Your Mask on
As the pandemic exposes hearing loss, it’s important to remember you will need to keep your mask on. Masks are frequently mandated or required because they save lives. One of the problems with muffled voices is that individuals may be tempted to take off their masks, and that’s the last thing we should be doing.
So leave your mask on, make an appointment with us, and use your hearing aids. These initiatives will ultimately enhance your quality of life, and help keep you safe, as well.