Typically, you don’t mind wearing a mask (or sometimes even two) when you leave your house. The only trouble is, sometimes it’s hard to hear what other people are saying. When you go to the grocery store or visit your doctor’s office, the voices of cashiers and receptionists are muffled, even distorted. In some cases, it’s so bad you can hardly grasp a single word. They’re also wearing masks, obviously. However, the mask might not be the exclusive source of your difficulty. The real problem could be your hearing. Or, to say it differently: those muffled voices you’re hearing during the pandemic could be revealing your hearing impairment.
Masks Muffle Speech
Most quality masks are manufactured 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 points toward water droplets as a contributing factor (all these findings, though, are still preliminary and research is still being conducted). As a result, masks have proven very effective at limiting and preventing the spread of COVID-19.
But masks obviously can block the movement of sound waves. Masks can slightly muffle the human voice. For the majority of people, it’s not a big deal. But if hearing loss is an issue for you and muffled voices suddenly surround you, it might be difficult for you to comprehend anything being said.
Your Brain Compensates For Hearing Impairment
The impediment of sound waves probably isn’t the sole reason you’re having difficulty understanding someone wearing a mask. It’s more involved than that. The thing is, the brain is, to some degree, adept at compensating for variations in sound quality.
Without your awareness, your brain utilizes contextual information to help you understand what’s being said, even if you are unable to hear it. Your brain will synthesize things like facial expressions, body language, and especially lip movements to compensate for anything it can’t hear.
When somebody is wearing a mask, many of those linguistic cues are hidden. The position of somebody’s mouth and the movements of their lips is unseen. You can’t even tell if it’s a frown or smile behind the mask.
Without that added information, it’s harder for your brain to make up for the audio information you aren’t receiving automatically. That means you’re more likely to hear nothing but mumbles. Even if your brain can, somehow, make sense of what was said, your brain will get tired.
The exhaustion of a brain trying to continually compensate, under normal circumstances, can result in memory loss and irritability. Your brain will become even more tired when everyone is wearing a mask (but leave it on because it’s essential for community protection).
These issues are being brought into focus and hearing loss is being uncovered by the pandemic. Hearing loss normally advances slowly over time and might not have been detected in other circumstances. When your hearing initially begins to decline, you might ignore the symptoms and raise the volume on the television (maybe you don’t even realize you’re doing it).
That’s why it’s essential to visit us regularly. We can detect early hearing loss, often before you even notice it, because of the screenings we carry out.
This is especially true for anybody currently having trouble understanding conversations through a mask. Together we can determine ways to make you more comfortable talking with people who are wearing a mask. Hearing aids, for example, can produce considerable benefits, allowing you to regain much of your functional hearing range. Hearing aids will make it a lot easier to hear, and understand the voices behind the masks.
Keep Your Mask on
As the pandemic reveals hearing loss, it’s crucial to remember you must keep your mask on. Masks are frequently mandated or required because they save lives. One of the problems with muffled voices is that individuals might be tempted to take off their masks, and that’s the last thing we should be doing.
So leave your mask on, make an appointment with us, and wear your hearing aids. Sticking with these guidelines will keep you safe and improve your quality of life.