You wear your mask when you leave your house, sometimes more than one, and you generally don’t mind. The only trouble is, sometimes it’s difficult 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 scarcely grasp a single word. They’re also wearing masks, of course. Our face coverings aren’t completely at fault, however. The real issue may be your hearing. Or, to say it differently: those muffled voices you’re hearing during the pandemic could be revealing your hearing loss.
Speech is Muffled by a Mask
Most quality masks are made 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 (even though the science on the spread is still being carried out, so all findings are preliminary). As a result, masks have shown to be quite successful at limiting and stopping the spread of COVID-19.
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 problem. But if you have hearing loss and muffled voices are suddenly all around you, it could be hard for you to comprehend anything being said.
Hearing Loss Makes Your Brain Work Harder
The obstruction of sound waves probably isn’t the sole reason you’re having trouble understanding someone wearing a mask. There’s more going on than that. The thing is, the brain is, to some degree, skilled at compensating for variations in sound quality.
Even if you’re unable to hear what’s happening, 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 automatically to help you compensate for what you’re unable to hear.
Many of these visual clues are hidden when somebody is wearing a mask. The position of someone’s mouth and the movements of their lips is hidden. 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 compensate for the audio clues you aren’t receiving 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 constantly compensating brain can cause considerable mental exhaustion, often resulting in impatience or memory loss. With masks on, your brain will become even more exhausted (it’s important to remember masks are essential protection, so keep them on).
The pandemic is exposing hearing loss by bringing these issues to your attention. It’s not creating the condition in the first place, but it might have otherwise gone unnoticed because hearing loss usually advances relatively slowly. When your hearing first starts to diminish, you might ignore the symptoms and raise the volume on the television (you may not even recognize this happening).
That’s why it’s important to visit us on a regular basis. Because of the kinds of screenings we do, we can identify problems with your hearing early, frequently before you notice it yourself.
If you’re having a tough time hearing what people are saying when they are wearing a mask, this is particularly true. Together we can find strategies to make you more comfortable speaking with people wearing a mask. Hearing aids, for instance, can offer considerable benefits, allowing you to recover much of your functional hearing range. Voices behind the mask will be easier to hear and comprehend with hearing aids.
Keep Your Mask on
It’s important to remember to wear your mask even as the pandemic reveals hearing loss. Masks save lives and are often mandated. 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 wear your hearing aids. These initiatives will inevitably improve your quality of life, and help keep you safe, as well.