Typically, you don’t mind wearing a mask (or sometimes even two) when you leave your house. At times, though, you have a hard time hearing interactions. 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 understand a single word. They’re also wearing masks, of course. Our face coverings aren’t really at fault, though. It might be your hearing that’s the problem. Or, to say it differently: those muffled voices you hear during the pandemic might be uncovering your hearing impairment.
The Human Voice is Muffled by a Mask
Most good masks are manufactured to prevent the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. In the instance of COVID-19, that’s pretty beneficial because most evidence indicates that water droplets as a prominent factor (all these findings, however, are still in early stages and studies are still being done). As a result, masks have proven quite effective at curtailing and stopping the spread of COVID-19.
Unfortunately, those same masks impede the movement of sound waves. The human voice will be a bit muffled by a mask. It’s not really a big problem for most individuals. But if you have hearing loss and muffled voices are suddenly all around you, it could be difficult for you to hear anything being said.
Your Brain Compensates For Hearing Impairment
The obstruction of sound waves likely isn’t the sole reason you’re having trouble comprehending someone wearing a mask. It’s more involved than that. The thing is, the brain is, to some degree, skilled at compensating for fluctuations in sound quality.
Without your awareness, your brain uses contextual information to help you understand what’s being said, even if you can’t hear it. Body language, facial expressions, even lip movements are all synthesized by your brain naturally to help you compensate for what you’re unable to hear.
When somebody is wearing a mask, many of those visual cues are concealed. You can’t see the shape of someone’s lips or the alignment of the mouth. You can’t even see if it’s a frown or smile behind the mask.
Without that added input, it’s harder for your brain to make up for the audio information you aren’t receiving automatically. 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 continually compensating brain can cause significant mental exhaustion, often resulting in impatience or memory loss. Your brain will become even more exhausted when everyone is wearing a mask (but keep it on because it’s essential for community protection).
The pandemic is revealing hearing loss by bringing these concerns to your attention. It’s not creating the condition in the first place, but it may have otherwise gone unnoticed because hearing loss commonly progresses relatively slowly. When your hearing first starts to diminish, you may ignore the symptoms and raise the volume on the television (you may not even notice you’re doing it).
This is why coming in to see us on a regular basis is so essential. We can diagnose early hearing loss, frequently before you even notice it, because of the screenings we do.
This is particularly true for people presently having trouble understanding conversations through a mask. Together we can determine ways to make you more comfortable speaking with people 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
As the pandemic reveals hearing loss, it’s important to remember you will need to keep your mask on. Masks are often mandated or required because they save lives. The last thing we should do, no matter how tempting, is take off our mask.
So keep your mask on, schedule an appointment with us, and use your hearing aids. These efforts will ultimately improve your quality of life, and help keep you safe, as well.