Typically, you don’t mind wearing a mask (or sometimes even two) when you leave your house. Occasionally, though, you have a hard time hearing interactions. When you go to the grocery store or doctor’s appointment, the voices of cashiers and receptionists are muffled, even distorted. Sometimes, you can’t make out anything that’s being said. They’re also wearing masks, of course. Our face coverings aren’t totally at fault, though. It may be your hearing that’s the issue. Or, to put it another way: those muffled voices you hear during the pandemic might be exposing your hearing impairment.
Masks Muffle Speech
Most good masks are manufactured to prevent the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. The majority of evidence points to airborne water droplets as a contributing factor in the case of COVID-19 so that’s very useful (all these findings, however, are still preliminary and studies are still being done). Curtailing and preventing COVID-19, as a result, has been shown to be very 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 problem for most individuals. But if you have hearing loss and muffled voices suddenly surround you, it might be difficult for you to make out anything being said.
Hearing Loss Makes Your Brain Work Harder
But your trouble understanding people wearing masks probably isn’t simply because voices are muffled. It’s more involved than that. The thing is, the brain is, to some extent, skilled at compensating for variations in sound quality.
Without you recognizing it, your brain uses contextual information to help you understand what’s being said, even if you can’t hear it. 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 indicators are hidden when someone is wearing a mask. The position of someone’s mouth and the movements of their lips is hidden. You don’t even know if they are smiling or frowning.
Your brain has a very difficult time trying to interpret what’s being said without that extra visual information. 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.
Under normal circumstances, a constantly compensating brain can cause significant mental fatigue, sometimes resulting in irritability or loss of memory. Your brain will become even more fatigued when everybody is wearing a mask (but keep it on because it’s important for community protection).
The pandemic is exposing hearing loss by bringing these concerns to your attention. It Isn’t causing the condition in the first place, but it may have otherwise gone unnoticed because hearing loss usually advances relatively slowly. In the early phases of hearing loss we usually don’t even notice it and frequently start raising the volume on our devices (you may not even detect this happening).
This is the reason why coming in to see us regularly is so essential. Because of the kinds of screenings we do, we can diagnose problems with your hearing early, frequently before you observe it yourself.
This is particularly true for people currently having difficulty understanding conversations through a mask. We can help you discover solutions to help you navigate a masked world. Hearing aids, for example, can produce significant benefits, allowing you to recover a lot of your functional hearing range. Hearing aids will make it much easier to hear, and understand the voices behind the masks.
Keep Your Mask on
It’s essential to remember to wear your mask even as the pandemic reveals hearing loss. Masks save lives and are often mandated. 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 be doing.
So keep your mask on, make an appointment with us, and wear your hearing aids. These initiatives will inevitably improve your quality of life, and help keep you safe, as well.