You wear your mask when you go out, sometimes two of them, and you generally don’t mind. Occasionally, however, you have a tough time hearing interactions. Voices are muffled and even distorted when you go to the doctor’s office or store. At times, it’s so bad you can barely understand a single word. They’re also wearing masks, of course. However, the mask might 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 might be uncovering your hearing impairment.
Masks Muffle The Human Voice
Most quality masks are manufactured to prevent the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. Most evidence indicates airborne water droplets as a contributing factor in the case of COVID-19 so that’s very useful (all these findings, however, are still preliminary and research is still being done). This means that masks have shown to be very effective at limiting and preventing the spread of COVID-19.
However, those same masks impede the projection of sound waves. Masks can block the human voice slightly. For most individuals, it’s not a problem. But if hearing loss is a problem for you and muffled voices suddenly surround you, it might be difficult for you to make out anything being said.
Your Brain Compensates For Hearing Loss
The obstruction of sound waves probably isn’t the sole reason you’re having trouble comprehending someone wearing a mask. There’s more going on than that. The thing is, the brain is, to some degree, skilled at compensating for variations in sound quality.
Without your awareness, your brain makes use of contextual information to help you comprehend what’s being said, even if you can’t hear it. Body language, facial expressions, even lip movements are all synthesized by your brain automatically to help you compensate for what you’re unable to hear.
Many of these visual indicators are concealed when somebody is wearing a mask. The position of someone’s mouth and the motion of their lips is hidden. 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 extra visual information. 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.
The fatigue of a brain trying to continuously compensate, under typical circumstances, can result in loss of memory and irritability. With masks on, your brain will become even more tired (it’s important to remember masks are essential protection, so keep them on).
The pandemic is exposing hearing loss by bringing these issues into focus. Hearing loss usually develops slowly over time and might not have been recognized in other circumstances. In the early stages of hearing loss we typically don’t even notice it and frequently start turning up the volume on our devices (you may not even know you’re doing it).
This is the reason why coming in to see us regularly is so important. Because of the kinds of screenings we perform, we can identify issues with your hearing early, often before you observe it yourself.
This is particularly true for individuals presently having trouble comprehending conversations through a mask. Together we can find ways to make you more comfortable talking with people wearing a mask. Hearing aids, for instance, 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
As the pandemic reveals hearing loss, it’s important to remember you will need to keep your mask on. Masks are frequently mandated or required because they save lives. One of the problems with muffled voices is that people might be tempted to take off their masks, and that’s the last thing we should be doing.
So keep your mask on, make an appointment with us, and use your hearing aids. Sticking with these recommendations will keep you safe and enhance your quality of life.