You wear your mask when you go out, sometimes more than one, and you generally don’t mind. Occasionally, however, you have a hard time hearing interactions. When you go to the supermarket or visit your doctor’s office, the voices of cashiers and receptionists are muffled, even distorted. Sometimes, it’s so bad you can hardly understand a single word. They’re also wearing masks, obviously. However, the mask may not be the exclusive source of your trouble. It may be your hearing that’s the problem. Or, to say it another way: those muffled voices you’re hearing during the pandemic may be revealing your hearing impairment.
Masks Muffle The Human Voice
Most quality masks are made 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 (all these results, however, are still preliminary and research is still being carried out). This means that masks have proven quite successful at limiting and preventing the spread of COVID-19.
But masks clearly can stop 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 are suddenly all around you, it may be difficult for you to comprehend anything being said.
Hearing Impairment Makes Your Brain Work Harder
But your difficulty 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 degree, adept at compensating for fluctuations in sound quality.
Without you recognizing it, your brain uses contextual information to help you comprehend what’s being said, even if you are unable to hear it. Facial expressions, body language, even lip movements are all synthesized by your brain naturally to help you compensate for what you’re unable to hear.
When someone is wearing a mask, many of those visual cues are hidden. You can’t see the shape of someone’s lips or the alignment of the mouth. You don’t even know if they are smiling or frowning.
Without that added input, it’s more difficult for your brain to make up for the audio clues you aren’t receiving 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 exhaustion of a brain trying to continually compensate, under normal circumstances, can lead to loss of memory and irritability. With masks in place, your brain will become even more fatigued (it’s important to remember masks are essential protection, so keep them on).
The pandemic is uncovering hearing loss by bringing these concerns into focus. It Isn’t creating the condition in the first place, but it may have otherwise gone undetected because hearing loss commonly progresses quite slowly. In the early phases of hearing loss we usually don’t even detect it and often start raising the volume on our devices (you might not even notice this taking place).
This is the reason why coming in to see us on a regular basis is so essential. Because of the variety of screenings we do, we can identify problems with your hearing early, often before you notice it yourself.
This is particularly true for anybody presently having difficulty understanding conversations through a mask. We can help you find strategies to help you navigate a masked world. For example, hearing aids can help you get back a lot of your functional hearing range and can provide other significant benefits. Hearing aids will make it a great deal easier to hear, and comprehend the voices behind the masks.
Keep Your Mask on
As the pandemic reveals hearing loss, it’s crucial to remember you will need to keep your mask on. Masks save lives and are often mandated. One of the issues with muffled voices is that individuals may be tempted to remove their masks, and that’s the last thing we should do.
So schedule an appointment with us, use your hearing aid, and keep your mask on. These efforts will ultimately enhance your quality of life, and help keep you safe, as well.