You wear your mask when you go out, sometimes more than one, and you typically don’t mind. The only trouble is, sometimes it’s hard to hear what other people are saying. When you go to the supermarket or doctor’s appointment, the voices of cashiers and receptionists are muffled, even distorted. At times, it’s so bad you can scarcely grasp a single word. Obviously, they’re wearing masks, as well. Our face coverings aren’t totally at fault, however. The real problem could lie with your hearing. Or, to say it differently: those muffled voices you’re hearing during the pandemic might be uncovering your hearing impairment.
The Human Voice is Muffled by a Mask
Most good masks are manufactured to stop the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. Most evidence indicates airborne water droplets as a contributing factor in the instance of COVID-19 so that’s pretty useful (although the science regarding the spread is still being carried out, so all results are in early stages). Limiting and preventing COVID-19, as a result, has been proven really practical by wearing masks.
But masks obviously can stop the movement of sound waves. The human voice will be somewhat muffled by a mask. It’s not really much of a concern for most people. But if hearing loss is a problem for you and muffled voices suddenly surround you, it might be difficult for you to comprehend anything being said.
Your Brain Compensates For Hearing Loss
The impediment of sound waves probably isn’t the sole 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 fluctuations in sound quality.
Without you recognizing it, your brain makes use of contextual information to help you understand what’s being said, even if you can’t hear it. Facial expressions, body language, even lip movements are all synthesized by your brain naturally to help you compensate for what you can’t hear.
Many of these visual indicators are hidden when somebody is wearing a mask. The position of someone’s mouth and the motion of their lips is unseen. You don’t even know if they are frowning or smiling.
Without that added information, it’s harder for your brain to make up for the audio information you aren’t receiving automatically. So mumbling is probably all you will hear. Even if your brain can, somehow, make sense of what was said, your brain will get tired.
Under regular circumstances, a continually compensating brain can cause significant mental exhaustion, sometimes resulting in impatience or loss of memory. With masks on, your brain will become even more tired (it’s worthwhile to remember masks are essential protection, so keep them on).
These concerns are being brought to your attention and hearing loss is being revealed by the pandemic. It Isn’t creating the condition in the first place, but it may have otherwise gone unnoticed because hearing loss typically advances quite slowly. When your hearing initially begins to diminish, you may disregard the symptoms and raise the volume on the television (maybe you don’t even know you’re doing it).
This is why coming in to see us regularly is so important. We can identify early hearing loss, often before you even notice it, because of the screenings we perform.
If you are having a difficult time understanding what people are saying when they’re wearing a mask, this is particularly true. Together we can determine strategies to make you more comfortable speaking with people who are wearing a mask. Hearing aids, for instance, can offer considerable benefits, allowing you to regain 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
As the pandemic exposes hearing loss, it’s essential 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 do.
So schedule an appointment with us, wear your hearing aid, and keep your mask on. These efforts will ultimately enhance your quality of life, and help keep you safe, as well.