You wear your mask when you go out, sometimes more than one, and you generally don’t mind. Sometimes, however, you have a tough time hearing interactions. Voices are muffled and even distorted when you go to the store or doctor’s office. At times, it’s so bad you can scarcely perceive a single word. Obviously, they’re wearing masks, too. However, the mask may not be the only source of your difficulty. It might be your hearing that’s the issue. Or, to say it differently: those muffled voices you hear during the pandemic may be revealing your hearing loss.
Masks Muffle The Human Voice
Most good masks are manufactured to stop the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. In the case of COVID-19, that’s pretty useful because the majority of evidence points toward water droplets as a prominent factor (all these findings, however, are still preliminary and studies are still being conducted). Limiting and preventing COVID-19, consequently, has been proven very effective by wearing masks.
But masks obviously can block the movement of sound waves. The human voice will be somewhat muffled by a mask. It’s not really a big problem for most people. But if hearing loss is an issue for you and muffled voices suddenly surround you, it may be hard for you to understand anything being said.
Hearing Impairment Makes Your Brain Work Overtime
The impediment of sound waves probably isn’t the only reason you’re having trouble comprehending someone wearing a mask. It’s more involved than that. The thing is, the brain is, to some degree, skilled at compensating for variations in sound quality.
Even if you can’t 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 especially lip movements to compensate for anything it can’t hear.
When someone is wearing a mask, many of those linguistic cues are concealed. The position of someone’s mouth and the motion of their lips is unseen. You don’t even know if they are smiling or frowning.
Without that additional input, it’s more difficult for your brain to make up for the audio clues you aren’t getting 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.
Under normal circumstances, a continuously compensating brain can cause significant mental exhaustion, often resulting in irritability or memory loss. Your brain will become even more fatigued when everybody is wearing a mask (but keep it on because it’s essential for community protection).
These issues are being brought to your attention and hearing loss is being uncovered by the pandemic. It Isn’t causing the condition in the first place, but it may have otherwise gone unnoticed because hearing loss commonly progresses rather slowly. In the early phases of hearing loss we normally don’t even notice it and often start turning up the volume on our devices (maybe you don’t even know you’re doing it).
That’s why it’s worthwhile to visit us on a regular basis. Because of the kinds of screenings we perform, we can detect problems with your hearing early, frequently before you notice it yourself.
This is particularly true for individuals presently having trouble understanding conversations through a mask. Together we can find strategies to make you more comfortable conversing with people who are wearing a mask. Hearing aids, for example, can produce substantial benefits, allowing you to regain a lot 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 essential to remember to keep your mask on even as the pandemic exposes hearing loss. Masks save lives and are frequently mandated. One of the issues with muffled voices is that people may be tempted to remove their masks, and that’s the last thing we should be doing.
So keep your mask on, schedule an appointment with us, and use your hearing aids. Following these suggestions will keep you safe and improve your quality of life.