Generally, you don’t mind wearing a mask (or sometimes even two) when you leave your house. The only trouble is, sometimes it’s tough to hear what other people are saying. When you go to the supermarket or visit your doctor’s office, the voices of cashiers and receptionists are muffled, even distorted. At times, it’s so bad you can hardly grasp a single word. They’re also wearing masks, obviously. However, the mask might not be the only source of your trouble. The real problem could lie with your hearing. Or, to say it another way: those muffled voices you’re hearing during the pandemic might be uncovering your hearing impairment.
Masks Muffle The Human Voice
Most quality masks are made 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 indicates that water droplets as a prominent factor (all these findings, however, are still preliminary and studies are still being conducted). This means that masks have shown to be quite successful at curtailing and preventing the spread of COVID-19.
However, those same masks hinder the projection of sound waves. Masks can block the human voice somewhat. It’s not really a big concern for most people. But if you suffer from hearing loss and muffled voices are suddenly all around you, it may be difficult for you to hear anything being said.
Hearing Impairment Makes Your Brain Work Harder
But your difficulty 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, skilled at compensating for fluctuations 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. 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. The position of somebody’s mouth and the motion of their lips is hidden. You don’t even know if they are frowning or smiling.
Your brain has a really difficult time attempting to translate what’s being said without that extra visual information. 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.
Under regular conditions, a constantly compensating brain can cause significant mental fatigue, sometimes resulting in impatience or loss of memory. With masks in place, your brain will become even more tired (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’s not causing the condition in the first place, but it might have otherwise gone undetected because hearing loss commonly progresses quite slowly. In the early stages of hearing loss we usually don’t even detect it and frequently start raising the volume on our devices (you may not even notice this occurring).
This is the reason why coming in to see us on a regular basis is so essential. We can diagnose early hearing loss, often before you even notice it, because of the screenings we carry out.
If you’re having a difficult time hearing what people are saying when they’re wearing a mask, this is particularly true. We can help you find strategies to help you get through a masked world. Hearing aids, for instance, can provide considerable benefits, allowing you to regain 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 keep your mask on even as the pandemic exposes hearing loss. Masks are frequently mandated or required because they save lives. 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 do.
So leave your mask on, make an appointment with us, and use your hearing aids. Sticking with these guidelines will keep you safe and enhance your quality of life.