Typically, you don’t mind wearing a mask (or sometimes even two) when you go out. At times, though, you have a tough time hearing conversations. Voices are muffled and even distorted when you go to the doctor’s office or store. Sometimes, you can’t understand anything that’s being said. They’re also wearing masks, obviously. However, the mask may not be the exclusive source of your difficulty. The real problem may lie with your hearing. Or, to put it another way: those muffled voices you’re hearing during the pandemic may be revealing your hearing impairment.
The Human Voice is Muffled by a Mask
Most good masks are designed to stop the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. Most evidence indicates airborne water droplets as a contributing factor in the instance of COVID-19 so that’s very useful (although the science regarding the spread is still being carried out, so all results are in early stages). As a result, masks have proven quite effective at curtailing and stopping the spread of COVID-19.
But masks clearly can block the movement of sound waves. The human voice will be a bit muffled by a mask. For most people, it’s not a problem. But if you suffer from hearing loss and muffled voices are suddenly all around you, it could be hard for you to make out anything being said.
Hearing Impairment Makes Your Brain Work Harder
But your trouble understanding people wearing masks most likely isn’t only because voices are muffled. It’s more involved than that. The thing is, the brain is, to some extent, skilled at compensating for fluctuations in sound quality.
Even if you’re unable to hear what’s happening, your brain will put the event into context and use that information to interpret what’s being said. Facial expressions, body language, even lip movements are all synthesized by your brain automatically to help you compensate for what you can’t hear.
When somebody is wearing a mask, many of those visual cues are hidden. The position of somebody’s mouth and the motion of their lips is hidden. You can’t even tell if it’s a smile or a frown behind the mask.
Without that additional input, it’s harder for your brain to compensate for the audio clues you aren’t getting automatically. 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 fatigue of a brain trying to constantly compensate, under typical circumstances, can lead to loss of memory and irritability. With masks on, your brain will become even more exhausted (it’s worthwhile to remember masks are essential protection, so keep them on).
The pandemic is revealing hearing loss by bringing these issues into focus. It Isn’t creating the condition in the first place, but it might have otherwise gone unnoticed because hearing loss usually progresses relatively slowly. In the early phases of hearing loss we normally don’t even detect it and frequently start raising the volume on our devices (maybe you don’t even realize you’re doing it).
This is the reason why coming in to see us regularly is so essential. We can detect early hearing loss, frequently before you even notice it, because of the screenings we perform.
This is particularly true for anyone currently having trouble comprehending conversations through a mask. Together we can determine ways to make you more comfortable talking with people wearing a mask. Hearing aids, for instance, can produce significant benefits, allowing you to recover much of your functional hearing range. Hearing aids will make it a great deal easier to hear, and understand the voices behind the masks.
Keep Your Mask on
As the pandemic exposes hearing loss, it’s crucial to remember you must keep your mask on. Masks are frequently mandated or required because they save lives. One of the problems with muffled voices is that individuals might be tempted to remove their masks, and that’s the last thing we should do.
So keep your mask on, schedule an appointment with us, and use your hearing aids. Following these guidelines will keep you safe and improve your quality of life.