Generally, you don’t mind wearing a mask (or sometimes even two) when you leave your house. At times, however, you have a hard 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 barely understand a single word. Obviously, they’re wearing masks, as well. Our face coverings aren’t completely at fault, however. The real problem could lie with your hearing. Or, to say it another way: those muffled voices you’re hearing during the pandemic could be uncovering your hearing impairment.
Masks Muffle Speech
Most good masks are manufactured to stop the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. In the case of COVID-19, that’s rather useful because the majority of evidence points toward water droplets as a contributing factor (although the science on the spread is still being done, so all results are preliminary). Limiting and stopping COVID-19, as a result, has been proven really effective by wearing masks.
But masks clearly can stop the movement of sound waves. Masks can slightly muffle the human voice. It’s not really a big concern for most people. But if you suffer from hearing loss and muffled voices suddenly surround you, it could be hard for you to understand anything being said.
Your Brain Compensates For Hearing Impairment
The impediment of sound waves probably isn’t the only reason you’re having difficulty understanding someone wearing a mask. There’s more to it than that. You see, the brain is very good at compensating for fluctuations in your hearing, up to a point.
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 physical clues like facial expressions, body language, and especially lip movements to compensate for what it can’t hear.
When someone is wearing a mask, many of those visual cues are concealed. The position of somebody’s mouth and the movements of their lips is hidden. You can’t even tell if it’s a smile or a frown behind the mask.
Your brain has a really hard time trying to translate what’s being said without that added 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 fatigue of a brain trying to continually compensate, under typical circumstances, can cause loss of memory and irritability. Your brain will become even more tired when everyone is wearing a mask (but leave it on because it’s essential for community protection).
The pandemic is revealing hearing loss by bringing these issues into focus. Hearing loss normally advances gradually over time and might not have been noticed in other circumstances. When your hearing initially begins to decline, you may disregard the symptoms and raise the volume on the television (you may not even know 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, often before you even notice it, because of the screenings we carry out.
This is particularly true for individuals currently having difficulty comprehending conversations through a mask. We can help you discover methods to help you get through a masked world. Hearing aids, for instance, can provide significant benefits, allowing you to recover 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 important to remember to keep your mask on even as the pandemic reveals hearing loss. Masks save lives and are often mandated. The last thing we should do, no matter how tempting, is take off our mask.
So make 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.