You wear your mask when you go out, sometimes two of them, and you generally don’t mind. The only trouble is, sometimes it’s hard to hear what other people are saying. When you go to the supermarket 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. Of course, they’re wearing masks, as well. However, the mask might not be the only source of your difficulty. The real issue could be your hearing. Or, to say it another way: those muffled voices you’re hearing during the pandemic may be uncovering your hearing loss.
Masks Muffle Speech
Most good masks are designed to prevent the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. In the instance of COVID-19, that’s rather useful because the majority of evidence indicates that water droplets as a contributing factor (all these results, though, are still preliminary and research is still being done). As a result, masks have shown to be quite effective at curtailing and stopping the spread of COVID-19.
Unfortunately, those same masks interfere with the projection of sound waves. The human voice will be a bit muffled by a mask. It’s not really a big 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 make out anything being said.
Your Brain Compensates For Hearing Loss
But your trouble understanding people wearing masks most likely isn’t only because voices are muffled. There’s more to it than that. The thing is, the brain is, to some extent, skilled at compensating for fluctuations in sound quality.
Without you recognizing it, your brain utilizes 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 particularly lip movements to compensate for what it can’t hear.
When somebody is wearing a mask, many of those visual cues are hidden. You can’t see the shape of someone’s lips or the alignment of the mouth. You don’t even know if they are smiling or frowning.
Your brain has a very difficult time trying to translate what’s being said without that extra visual information. That means you’re more likely to hear nothing but mumbles. Even if your brain can, somehow, make sense of what was said, your brain will get tired.
Under normal conditions, a continually compensating brain can cause considerable mental exhaustion, often resulting in impatience or memory loss. Your brain will become even more fatigued when everybody is wearing a mask (but keep it on because it’s essential for community protection).
These concerns are being brought into focus and hearing loss is being revealed by the pandemic. Hearing loss commonly develops gradually over time and might not have been detected in different circumstances. When your hearing first starts to decline, you may disregard the symptoms and turn up the volume on the television (you may not even notice you’re doing it).
This is why coming in to see us regularly is so important. Because of the variety of screenings we carry out, we can identify problems with your hearing early, often before you observe it yourself.
If you’re having a hard time understanding what people are saying when they are wearing a mask, this is especially true. Together we can determine ways to make you more comfortable speaking with people wearing a mask. Hearing aids, for instance, can offer considerable benefits, allowing you to regain much of your functional hearing range. Voices behind the mask will be easier to hear and understand with hearing aids.
Keep Your Mask on
It’s essential to remember to wear your mask even as the pandemic reveals hearing loss. Masks are often mandated or required because they save lives. One of the issues with muffled voices is that individuals might be tempted to take off their masks, and that’s the last thing we should be doing.
So keep your mask on, make an appointment with us, and use your hearing aids. Sticking with these guidelines will keep you safe and enhance your quality of life.