Typically, you don’t mind wearing a mask (or sometimes even two) when you go out. Sometimes, however, you have a tough time hearing interactions. 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, of course. However, the mask may not be the exclusive source of your difficulty. The real issue could lie with your hearing. Or, to say it differently: those muffled voices you hear during the pandemic might be exposing your hearing impairment.
Masks Muffle The Human Voice
Most good masks are made to prevent the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. Most evidence indicates airborne water droplets as a contributing factor in the instance of COVID-19 so that’s very useful (all these findings, though, are still preliminary and studies are still being conducted). This means that masks have shown to be very effective at limiting and preventing the spread of COVID-19.
However, those same masks impede the projection of sound waves. The human voice will be somewhat muffled by a mask. It’s not really much of a problem for most individuals. But if you suffer from hearing loss and muffled voices are suddenly all around you, it might be difficult for you to understand anything being said.
Hearing Impairment Makes Your Brain Work Overtime
But your trouble understanding people wearing masks most likely isn’t simply because voices are muffled. There’s more going on than that. You see, the brain is really good at compensating for changes in your hearing, up to a point.
Without your awareness, your brain makes use of contextual information to help you understand what’s being said, even if you can’t hear it. Your brain will synthesize physical clues 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. 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 smile or a frown behind the mask.
Without that additional input, it’s harder for your brain to compensate for the audio information you aren’t getting automatically. 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 regular circumstances, a continually compensating brain can cause significant mental fatigue, often resulting in irritability or memory loss. With masks in place, 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 uncovered by the pandemic. Hearing loss typically develops gradually over time and may not have been detected in other circumstances. When your hearing first starts to decline, you might ignore the symptoms and turn up the volume on the television (you may not even notice you’re doing it).
That’s why it’s essential to visit us on a regular basis. Because of the kinds of screenings we carry out, we can detect problems with your hearing early, frequently before you notice it yourself.
If you are having a difficult time understanding what people are saying when they are wearing a mask, this is especially true. Together we can determine strategies to make you more comfortable speaking with people wearing a mask. For example, hearing aids can help you recover a lot of your functional hearing range and can provide other significant benefits. Hearing aids will make it a great deal easier to hear, and understand the voices behind the masks.
Keep Your Mask on
As the pandemic exposes hearing loss, it’s essential to remember you will need to keep your mask on. Masks are frequently mandated or required because they save lives. The last thing we should do, no matter how tempting, is remove our mask.
So make an appointment with us, wear your hearing aid, and keep your mask on. Following these guidelines will keep you safe and enhance your quality of life.