Typically, you don’t mind wearing a mask (or sometimes even two) when you go out. Occasionally, though, you have a tough time hearing interactions. When you go to the supermarket or doctor’s appointment, the voices of cashiers and receptionists are muffled, even distorted. Sometimes, it’s so bad you can scarcely perceive a single word. They’re also wearing masks, obviously. Our face coverings aren’t totally at fault, though. It may be your hearing that’s the problem. Or, to say it another way: those muffled voices you hear during the pandemic might be exposing your hearing impairment.
The Human Voice is Muffled by a Mask
Most quality masks are designed to prevent the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. In the case of COVID-19, that’s rather useful because most evidence indicates that water droplets are a prominent factor (even though the science regarding the spread is still being done, so all findings are preliminary). As a result, masks have been shown to be quite effective at curtailing and preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Unfortunately, those same masks hinder the movement of sound waves. The human voice will be somewhat muffled by a mask. For most people, it’s not a big deal. But if hearing loss is an issue for you and muffled voices suddenly surround you, it may be difficult for you to hear anything being said.
Hearing Loss Makes Your Brain Work Harder
The impediment of sound waves probably isn’t the only 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 degree, skilled at compensating for variations in sound quality.
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. 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.
When someone is wearing a mask, many of those linguistic cues are hidden. The position of somebody’s mouth and the motion of their lips is unseen. You can’t even see if it’s a smile or a frown behind the mask.
Without that added input, 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. Even if your brain can, somehow, make sense of what was said, your brain will get tired.
The fatigue of a brain trying to continuously compensate, under typical circumstances, can lead to loss of memory and irritability. Your brain will become even more fatigued when everybody is wearing a mask (but leave it on because it’s essential for community protection).
These issues are being brought into focus and hearing loss is being exposed by the pandemic. Hearing loss typically develops gradually over time and might not have been noticed in different circumstances. When your hearing first starts to diminish, you may disregard the symptoms and raise the volume on the television (maybe you don’t even realize you’re doing it).
This is the reason why coming in to see us on a regular basis is so important. We can diagnose early hearing loss, frequently before you even notice it, because of the screenings we perform.
This is especially true for people currently having difficulty understanding conversations through a mask. Together we can find ways to make you more comfortable conversing with people who are wearing a mask. For example, hearing aids can help you regain a lot of your functional hearing range and can supply other significant benefits. Voices behind the mask will be easier to hear and understand with hearing aids.
Keep Your Mask on
It’s essential to remember to keep your mask on even as the pandemic exposes hearing loss. Masks save lives and are frequently mandated. The last thing we should do, no matter how tempting, is remove our mask.
So leave your mask on, make an appointment with us, and wear your hearing aids. These efforts will inevitably improve your quality of life, and help keep you safe, as well.