Generally, you don’t mind wearing a mask (or sometimes even two) when you go out. Occasionally, though, you have a hard time hearing interactions. Voices are muffled and even distorted when you go to the store or doctor’s office. In some cases, it’s so bad you can scarcely perceive a single word. Naturally, they’re wearing masks, too. Our face coverings aren’t totally at fault, however. It might be your hearing that’s the issue. Or, to say it differently: those muffled voices you hear during the pandemic might be uncovering your hearing impairment.
Masks Muffle The Human Voice
Most good masks are made to prevent the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. Most evidence points to airborne water droplets as a contributing factor in the instance of COVID-19 so that’s pretty useful (all these findings, however, are still preliminary and studies are still being conducted). Curtailing and stopping COVID-19, consequently, has been proven very effective by wearing masks.
However, those same masks hinder the projection of sound waves. Masks can slightly muffle the human voice. For the majority of 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.
Your Brain Compensates For Hearing Impairment
But your difficulty understanding people wearing masks probably isn’t only because voices are muffled. There’s more to it than that. The thing is, the brain is, to some degree, adept at compensating for variations 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. Your brain will synthesize things like facial expressions, body language, and particularly lip movements to compensate for what it can’t hear.
Many of these visual clues are concealed when somebody is wearing a mask. You can’t see the shape of someone’s lips or the alignment of the mouth. You don’t even know if they are frowning or smiling.
Your brain has a very hard time attempting to interpret 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.
The exhaustion of a brain trying to constantly compensate, under typical circumstances, can lead to memory loss and irritability. With masks on, your brain will become even more exhausted (it’s important to remember masks are essential protection, so keep them on).
These concerns are being brought into focus and hearing loss is being uncovered by the pandemic. Hearing loss typically advances slowly over time and may not have been noticed in other circumstances. When your hearing first starts to decline, you may disregard the symptoms and raise the volume on the television (you may not even realize you’re doing it).
This is why coming in to see us on a regular basis is so important. We can identify early hearing loss, frequently before you even notice it, because of the screenings we perform.
This is especially true for individuals currently having difficulty comprehending conversations through a mask. Together we can find strategies to make you more comfortable talking with people wearing a mask. Hearing aids, for example, can produce considerable benefits, allowing you to recover a lot 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 important to remember you must keep your mask on. Masks save lives and are often mandated. The last thing we should do, no matter how tempting, is remove our mask.
So schedule an appointment with us, use your hearing aid, and leave your mask on. Sticking with these guidelines will keep you safe and enhance your quality of life.