You wear your mask when you leave your house, sometimes two of them, and you generally don’t mind. Occasionally, though, you have a tough 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, it’s so bad you can scarcely grasp a single word. They’re also wearing masks, obviously. However, the mask may not be the only source of your trouble. The real issue may lie with your hearing. Or, to put it another way: those muffled voices you hear during the pandemic could be exposing your hearing loss.
Masks Muffle The Human Voice
Most good masks are made to prevent the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. In the instance of COVID-19, that’s rather beneficial because the majority of evidence points toward water droplets as a contributing factor (even though the science on the spread is still being done, so all results are in early stages). As a result, masks have proven very successful at curtailing and preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Unfortunately, those same masks hinder the movement of sound waves. Masks can slightly muffle the human voice. It’s not really a big concern for most individuals. But if hearing loss is a problem for you and muffled voices are suddenly all around you, it may be hard for you to hear anything being said.
Hearing Impairment Makes Your Brain Work Harder
But your difficulty understanding people wearing masks probably isn’t only because voices are muffled. There’s more going on than that. You see, the brain is extremely good at compensating for fluctuations in your hearing, up to a point.
Even if you can’t hear what’s happening, your brain will put the situation 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.
Many of these visual indicators are hidden when somebody is wearing a mask. You can’t see the shape of someone’s lips or the position of the mouth. You don’t even know if they are frowning or smiling.
Your brain has a really hard time attempting to translate what’s being said without that extra visual information. That means you’re more likely to hear nothing but mumbles. And your brain will get tired even if it is able to piece together what was said.
Under regular conditions, a continually compensating brain can cause considerable mental fatigue, sometimes resulting in impatience or loss of memory. With masks in place, your brain will become even more tired (it’s important to remember masks are essential protection, so keep them on).
The pandemic is revealing hearing loss by bringing these issues to your attention. It’s not causing the condition in the first place, but it may have otherwise gone undetected because hearing loss usually advances relatively slowly. When your hearing initially begins to diminish, you might ignore the symptoms and turn up the volume on the television (maybe you don’t even notice you’re doing it).
This is why coming in to see us regularly is so important. We can identify early hearing loss, frequently before you even notice it, because of the screenings we perform.
If you are having a difficult time hearing what people are saying when they’re wearing a mask, this is especially true. We can help you find strategies to help you get through a masked world. Hearing aids, for example, can produce significant benefits, allowing you to regain much of your functional hearing range. Voices behind the mask will be easier to hear and comprehend with hearing aids.
Keep Your Mask on
As the pandemic reveals hearing loss, it’s important to remember you must keep your mask on. Masks are often mandated or required because they save lives. One of the issues with muffled voices is that people might be tempted to remove their masks, and that’s the last thing we should be doing.
So schedule an appointment with us, wear your hearing aid, and keep your mask on. Following these recommendations will keep you safe and improve your quality of life.