Generally, you don’t mind wearing a mask (or sometimes even two) when you go out. Occasionally, though, you have a tough time hearing conversations. Voices are muffled and even distorted when you go to the store or doctor’s office. 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 completely at fault, though. It may be your hearing that’s the issue. Or, to say it differently: those muffled voices you hear during the pandemic might be revealing your hearing impairment.
Masks Muffle The Human Voice
Most good masks are manufactured to stop the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. In the instance of COVID-19, that’s pretty beneficial because the majority of evidence indicates that water droplets as a prominent factor (all these results, however, are still in early stages and studies are still being done). Limiting and preventing COVID-19, as a result, has been shown to be very effective by wearing masks.
Unfortunately, those same masks impede the movement of sound waves. The human voice will be somewhat muffled by a mask. For most people, it’s not a big deal. 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.
Hearing Loss Makes Your Brain Work Overtime
The impediment of sound waves likely isn’t the only reason you’re having difficulty understanding someone wearing a mask. It’s more involved than that. You see, the brain is really good at compensating for fluctuations in your hearing, up to a point.
Without your awareness, your brain uses contextual information to help you understand what’s being said, even if you are unable to hear it. Your brain will synthesize things like facial expressions, body language, and particularly lip movements to compensate for what it can’t hear.
When someone is wearing a mask, many of those linguistic cues are obscured. You can’t see the shape of someone’s lips or the position of the mouth. You don’t even know if they are frowning or smiling.
Your brain has a very hard time attempting to translate what’s being said without that extra visual information. So mumbling is probably all you will hear. Even if your brain can, somehow, make sense of what was said, your brain will get tired.
Under normal conditions, a continuously compensating brain can cause considerable mental exhaustion, sometimes resulting in irritability or loss of memory. With masks on, your brain will become even more exhausted (it’s important to remember masks are essential protection, so keep them on).
These concerns are being brought into focus and hearing loss is being exposed by the pandemic. It’s not causing the condition in the first place, but it may have otherwise gone undetected because hearing loss usually advances quite slowly. In the early stages of hearing loss we typically don’t even notice it and often start turning up the volume on our devices (you might not even detect this taking place).
This is why coming in to see us on a regular basis is so important. Because of the kinds of screenings we carry out, we can identify issues with your hearing early, often before you notice it yourself.
This is particularly true for individuals presently having trouble comprehending conversations through a mask. Together we can find ways to make you more comfortable talking with people wearing a mask. For example, hearing aids can help you recover a lot of your functional hearing range and can supply other significant benefits. Hearing aids will make it a lot easier to hear, and understand the voices behind the masks.
Keep Your Mask on
It’s essential to remember to wear your mask even as the pandemic exposes hearing loss. Masks save lives and are frequently mandated. The last thing we should do, no matter how tempting, is take off our mask.
So keep your mask on, make an appointment with us, and use your hearing aids. These efforts will inevitably improve your quality of life, and help keep you safe, as well.