Generally, you don’t mind wearing a mask (or sometimes even two) when you go out. Sometimes, however, you have a tough time hearing conversations. When you go to the grocery store or visit your doctor’s office, 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. Our face coverings aren’t totally at fault, though. The real problem could lie with your hearing. Or, to say it another way: those muffled voices you’re hearing during the pandemic could be uncovering your hearing impairment.
Masks Muffle The Human Voice
Most good masks are designed to prevent the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. The majority of evidence indicates airborne water droplets as a contributing factor in the case of COVID-19 so that’s pretty useful (even though the science regarding the spread is still being done, so all results are in early stages). As a result, masks have proven quite effective at curtailing 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. For the majority of people, it’s not a big deal. But if hearing loss is an issue for you and muffled voices suddenly surround you, it could be difficult for you to understand anything being said.
Your Brain Compensates For Hearing Impairment
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. The thing is, the brain is, to some extent, 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 are unable to 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.
When somebody is wearing a mask, many of those linguistic cues are concealed. You can’t see the shape of someone’s lips or the alignment of the mouth. You can’t even tell if it’s a frown or smile behind the mask.
Your brain has a really hard time attempting to interpret what’s being said without that added visual information. 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 constantly compensate, under typical circumstances, can result in loss of memory and irritability. With masks on, your brain will become even more fatigued (it’s important to remember masks are essential protection, so keep them on).
The pandemic is exposing hearing loss by bringing these concerns to your attention. It Isn’t causing the condition in the first place, but it may have otherwise gone unnoticed because hearing loss usually progresses rather slowly. In the early stages of hearing loss we normally don’t even notice it and often start turning up the volume on our devices (you may not even notice you’re doing it).
That’s why it’s important to visit us on a regular basis. Because of the types of screenings we do, we can identify problems with your hearing early, frequently before you observe it yourself.
If you are having a tough time hearing what people are saying when they’re wearing a mask, this is particularly true. We can help you discover solutions to help you navigate a masked world. Hearing aids, for instance, can produce significant benefits, allowing you to recover a lot of your functional hearing range. Voices behind the mask will be easier to hear and comprehend with hearing aids.
Keep Your Mask on
As the pandemic exposes hearing loss, it’s essential to remember you will need to keep your mask on. Masks save lives and are frequently mandated. One of the problems with muffled voices is that people may be tempted to take off their masks, and that’s the last thing we should be doing.
So schedule an appointment with us, wear your hearing aid, and keep your mask on. These initiatives will ultimately improve your quality of life, and help keep you safe, as well.