Generally, you don’t mind wearing a mask (or sometimes even two) when you go out. The only trouble is, sometimes it’s tough to hear what other people are saying. Voices are muffled and even distorted when you go to the store or doctor’s office. Sometimes, it’s so bad you can hardly perceive a single word. Of course, they’re wearing masks, too. However, the mask may not be the exclusive source of your difficulty. It might be your hearing that’s the issue. Or, to say it differently: those muffled voices you’re hearing during the pandemic might be uncovering your hearing loss.
Masks Muffle Speech
Most good masks are designed to stop the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. The majority of evidence indicates airborne water droplets as a contributing factor in the instance of COVID-19 so that’s pretty useful (although the science regarding the spread is still being conducted, so all findings are in early stages). As a result, masks have shown to be very successful at limiting and preventing the spread of COVID-19.
However, those same masks interfere with the projection of sound waves. The human voice will be somewhat muffled by a mask. For the majority of individuals, it’s not a big deal. But if you suffer from hearing loss and muffled voices are suddenly all around you, it may be difficult for you to understand anything being said.
Hearing Loss Makes Your Brain Work Harder
The obstruction of sound waves likely isn’t the only reason you’re having trouble understanding someone wearing a mask. It’s more involved than that. The thing is, the brain is, to some extent, skilled at compensating for variations in sound quality.
Even if you’re unable to hear what’s going on, your brain will put the situation into context and use that information to interpret what’s being said. 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.
Many of these visual clues are hidden when someone is wearing a mask. You can’t see the shape of someone’s lips or the position of the mouth. You can’t even tell if it’s a frown or smile behind the mask.
Without that additional information, it’s more difficult for your brain to make up for the audio clues you aren’t getting 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 normal circumstances, a continually compensating brain can cause considerable mental exhaustion, often resulting in irritability or memory loss. With masks in place, your brain will become even more tired (it’s important to remember masks are essential protection, so keep them on).
These issues are being brought into focus and hearing loss is being uncovered by the pandemic. It’s not creating the condition in the first place, but it may have otherwise gone unnoticed because hearing loss typically progresses relatively slowly. When your hearing first starts to diminish, you might dismiss the symptoms and raise the volume on the television (you may not even know you’re doing it).
This is why coming in to see us regularly is so important. We can diagnose early hearing loss, often before you even notice it, because of the screenings we do.
This is especially true for individuals currently having difficulty comprehending conversations through a mask. We can help you find solutions to help you get through a masked world. For example, hearing aids can help you recover a lot of your functional hearing range and can supply other significant benefits. 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 must keep your mask on. Masks are frequently mandated or required because they save lives. The last thing we should do, regardless of how tempting, is remove our mask.
So keep your mask on, make an appointment with us, and use your hearing aids. These initiatives will ultimately enhance your quality of life, and help keep you safe, as well.