Generally, you don’t mind wearing a mask (or sometimes even two) when you leave your house. Sometimes, though, you have a tough time hearing conversations. 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 understand anything that’s being said. They’re also wearing masks, obviously. Our face coverings aren’t completely at fault, though. It may be your hearing that’s the issue. Or, to say it another way: those muffled voices you’re hearing during the pandemic might be uncovering your hearing impairment.
Speech is Muffled by a Mask
Most quality masks are made to prevent the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. In the case of COVID-19, that’s pretty useful because most evidence indicates that water droplets as a prominent 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.
But masks clearly can stop 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 have hearing loss and muffled voices are suddenly all around you, it might be hard for you to make out anything being said.
Your Brain Compensates For Hearing Impairment
The obstruction of sound waves probably isn’t the sole reason you’re having difficulty understanding someone wearing a mask. It’s more involved than that. You see, the brain is very good at compensating for fluctuations in your hearing, up to a point.
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 especially lip movements to compensate for what it can’t hear.
Many of these visual hints are hidden when someone is wearing a mask. The position of someone’s mouth and the motion of their lips is unseen. You don’t even know if they are smiling or frowning.
Without that added information, it’s more difficult for your brain to make up for the audio information you aren’t getting 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 exhaustion of a brain trying to continuously compensate, under typical circumstances, can result in memory loss and impatience. Your brain will become even more tired when everyone is wearing a mask (but keep it on because it’s essential for community protection).
The pandemic is uncovering hearing loss by bringing these issues to your attention. Hearing loss normally develops gradually over time and might not have been recognized in other circumstances. In the early stages of hearing loss we normally don’t even detect it and often start turning up the volume on our devices (you might not even notice this happening).
This is the reason why coming in to see us regularly is so essential. We can identify early hearing loss, frequently before you even notice it, because of the screenings we do.
This is particularly true for people presently having trouble comprehending conversations through a mask. Together we can find ways to make you more comfortable conversing with people who are wearing a mask. Hearing aids, for example, can provide significant 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 reveals hearing loss. Masks are often mandated or required because they save lives. The last thing we should do, no matter how tempting, is remove our mask.
So leave your mask on, schedule an appointment with us, and use your hearing aids. These initiatives will inevitably improve your quality of life, and help keep you safe, as well.