Generally, you don’t mind wearing a mask (or sometimes even two) when you leave your house. Sometimes, however, you have a hard time hearing conversations. Voices are muffled and even distorted when you go to the store or doctor’s office. Sometimes, you can’t understand anything that’s being said. They’re also wearing masks, obviously. However, the mask might not be the only source of your trouble. It might 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 loss.
Masks Muffle The Human Voice
Most good masks are designed to prevent the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. In the instance of COVID-19, that’s rather useful because the majority of evidence indicates that water droplets as a contributing factor (although the science on the spread is still being carried out, so all results are preliminary). Limiting and preventing COVID-19, as a result, has been shown to be really effective by wearing masks.
Unfortunately, those same masks interfere with the movement of sound waves. The human voice will be a bit muffled by a mask. For most individuals, it’s not a big deal. But if you have hearing loss and muffled voices are suddenly all around you, it might be difficult for you to make out anything being said.
Hearing Impairment Makes Your Brain Work Overtime
The obstruction of sound waves likely isn’t the sole reason you’re having difficulty comprehending someone wearing a mask. There’s more going on than that. You see, the brain is extremely good at compensating for changes in your hearing, up to a point.
Without your awareness, your brain utilizes contextual information to help you comprehend what’s being said, even if you can’t hear it. 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 concealed when somebody is wearing a mask. The position of someone’s mouth and the movements of their lips is unseen. You can’t even tell if it’s a smile or a frown behind the mask.
Without that added information, it’s more difficult for your brain to compensate for the audio information you aren’t receiving automatically. That means you’re more likely to hear nothing but mumbles. Even if your brain can, somehow, make sense of what was said, your brain will get tired.
Under normal circumstances, a constantly compensating brain can cause significant mental exhaustion, often resulting in irritability or loss of memory. Your brain will become even more fatigued when everybody is wearing a mask (but keep it on because it’s essential for community protection).
These concerns are being brought into focus and hearing loss is being revealed by the pandemic. It’s not causing the condition in the first place, but it may have otherwise gone unnoticed because hearing loss commonly advances relatively slowly. In the early stages of hearing loss we typically don’t even notice it and often start raising the volume on our devices (maybe you don’t even notice you’re doing it).
This is the reason why coming in to see us regularly is so important. We can diagnose early hearing loss, frequently before you even notice it, because of the screenings we perform.
If you are having a hard time understanding what people are saying when they’re wearing a mask, this is especially true. We can help you find solutions to help you navigate a masked world. For example, hearing aids can help you regain a lot of your functional hearing range and can provide other significant benefits. Voices behind the mask will be easier to hear and understand with hearing aids.
Keep Your Mask on
As the pandemic reveals hearing loss, it’s important to remember you will need to keep your mask on. Masks save lives and are often mandated. One of the problems with muffled voices is that individuals might be tempted to remove their masks, and that’s the last thing we should be doing.
So leave your mask on, schedule an appointment with us, and use your hearing aids. These efforts will inevitably enhance your quality of life, and help keep you safe, as well.