Typically, you don’t mind wearing a mask (or sometimes even two) when you leave your house. At times, though, you have a tough time hearing conversations. When you go to the grocery store or visit your doctor’s office, the voices of cashiers and receptionists are muffled, even distorted. Sometimes, it’s so bad you can barely perceive a single word. They’re also wearing masks, obviously. Our face coverings aren’t really at fault, however. The real issue may lie with your hearing. Or, to say it differently: those muffled voices you’re hearing during the pandemic might be revealing your hearing loss.
Masks Muffle The Human Voice
Most quality masks are designed to prevent the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. In the case of COVID-19, that’s rather useful because the majority of evidence indicates that water droplets as a prominent factor (all these findings, however, are still preliminary and research is still being done). Limiting and preventing COVID-19, as a result, has been shown to be very practical by wearing masks.
Unfortunately, those same masks interfere with the projection of sound waves. The human voice will be a bit muffled by a mask. It’s not really a big concern for most people. But if you have hearing loss and muffled voices suddenly surround you, it could be hard for you to hear anything being said.
Your Brain Compensates For Hearing Impairment
But your difficulty 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 degree, adept at compensating for variations in sound quality.
Even if you’re unable to hear what’s going on, your brain will put the event into context and use that information to interpret what’s being said. Facial expressions, body language, even lip movements are all synthesized by your brain automatically to help you compensate for what you can’t hear.
When somebody is wearing a mask, many of those visual cues are hidden. The position of somebody’s mouth and the motion of their lips is unseen. You don’t even know if they are frowning or smiling.
Your brain has a very difficult time trying to interpret what’s being said without that added 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.
The exhaustion of a brain trying to constantly compensate, under typical circumstances, can lead to loss of memory and impatience. Your brain will become even more tired when everyone is wearing a mask (but leave it on because it’s important for community protection).
The pandemic is exposing hearing loss by bringing these concerns into focus. Hearing loss typically advances gradually over time and may not have been detected in other circumstances. In the early stages of hearing loss we normally don’t even notice it and frequently start raising the volume on our devices (you may not even recognize this happening).
That’s why it’s important to visit us on a regular basis. We can detect early hearing loss, often before you even notice it, because of the screenings we carry out.
If you’re having a tough 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 talking with people wearing a mask. Hearing aids, for example, can offer substantial benefits, allowing you to regain a lot of your functional hearing range. Voices behind the mask will be easier to hear and comprehend with hearing aids.
Keep Your Mask on
It’s important to remember to wear your mask even as the pandemic reveals hearing loss. Masks save lives and are frequently mandated. One of the problems with muffled voices is that people might be tempted to remove their masks, and that’s the last thing we should do.
So leave your mask on, schedule an appointment with us, and wear your hearing aids. Sticking with these recommendations will keep you safe and enhance your quality of life.