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 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 hardly understand a single word. Of course, they’re wearing masks, too. Our face coverings aren’t really 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 loss.
Speech is Muffled by a Mask
Most quality masks are made to stop the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. In the instance of COVID-19, that’s rather useful because most evidence indicates that water droplets as a contributing factor (all these findings, however, are still preliminary and research is still being done). As a result, masks have proven quite successful at curtailing and stopping the spread of COVID-19.
But masks obviously can block the projection of sound waves. The human voice will be a bit muffled by a mask. For the majority of individuals, it’s not a problem. But if hearing loss is a problem for you and muffled voices are suddenly all around you, it could be hard for you to understand anything being said.
Your Brain Compensates For Hearing Impairment
The impediment of sound waves likely isn’t the only reason you’re having trouble understanding someone wearing a mask. It’s more involved than that. The thing is, the brain is, to some degree, skilled at compensating for fluctuations in sound quality.
Without you recognizing it, your brain makes use of contextual information to help you understand what’s being said, even if you are unable to hear it. Body language, facial expressions, 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 concealed. You can’t see the shape of someone’s lips or the alignment of the mouth. You can’t even see if it’s a smile or a frown behind the mask.
Your brain has a really hard time trying to interpret what’s being said without that extra visual information. 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.
The exhaustion of a brain trying to continually compensate, under typical circumstances, can lead to loss of memory and impatience. With masks on, your brain will become even more fatigued (it’s worthwhile to remember masks are essential protection, so keep them on).
The pandemic is revealing hearing loss by bringing these concerns to your attention. Hearing loss normally develops slowly over time and may not have been recognized in different circumstances. In the early stages of hearing loss we normally don’t even notice it and frequently start raising the volume on our devices (you may not even notice you’re doing it).
That’s why it’s important to visit us on a regular basis. Because of the variety of screenings we do, we can diagnose problems with your hearing early, often before you observe it yourself.
If you’re having a difficult time hearing what people are saying when they are wearing a mask, this is particularly true. Together we can determine ways to make you more comfortable talking with people wearing a mask. For example, hearing aids can help you recover a lot of your functional hearing range and can provide other significant benefits. Voices behind the mask will be easier to hear and understand with hearing aids.
Keep Your Mask on
As the pandemic reveals hearing loss, it’s essential to remember you will need to keep your mask on. Masks save lives and are often mandated. One of the problems with muffled voices is that people may be tempted to remove their masks, and that’s the last thing we should be doing.
So leave your mask on, make an appointment with us, and wear your hearing aids. Following these suggestions will keep you safe and improve your quality of life.