Generally, you don’t mind wearing a mask (or sometimes even two) when you go out. Occasionally, though, you have a tough time hearing interactions. Voices are muffled and even distorted when you go to the store or doctor’s office. Sometimes, you can’t make out anything that’s being said. Naturally, they’re wearing masks, as well. However, the mask may not be the only source of your difficulty. It may be your hearing that’s the problem. Or, to say it differently: those muffled voices you hear during the pandemic might be exposing your hearing impairment.
The Human Voice is Muffled by a Mask
Most good masks are manufactured to prevent the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. The majority of evidence indicates airborne water droplets as a contributing factor in the case of COVID-19 so that’s very useful (all these results, however, are still preliminary and studies are still being conducted). This means that masks have proven very successful at limiting and stopping the spread of COVID-19.
But masks obviously can block the projection of sound waves. The human voice will be a bit muffled by a mask. For the majority of people, it’s not a problem. But if hearing loss is an issue for you and muffled voices are suddenly all around you, it may be difficult for you to make out anything being said.
Your Brain Compensates For Hearing Impairment
But your trouble understanding people wearing masks most likely isn’t only because voices are muffled. There’s more going on than that. You see, the brain is very good at compensating for fluctuations in your hearing, up to a point.
Without you recognizing it, your brain uses contextual information to help you understand what’s being said, even if you can’t hear it. Your brain will synthesize physical clues like facial expressions, body language, and particularly lip movements to compensate for anything it can’t hear.
When someone is wearing a mask, many of those linguistic cues are hidden. 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.
Without that additional 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.
Under regular circumstances, a continually compensating brain can cause considerable mental exhaustion, often resulting in impatience or loss of memory. With masks in place, your brain will become even more fatigued (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 uncovered by the pandemic. Hearing loss commonly advances slowly over time and may not have been noticed in different circumstances. In the early stages of hearing loss we usually don’t even detect it and often start turning up the volume on our devices (you might not even detect this occurring).
This is the reason why coming in to see us regularly is so essential. We can identify early hearing loss, frequently before you even notice it, because of the screenings we perform.
If you’re 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 conversing with people who are wearing a mask. Hearing aids, for example, can provide considerable benefits, allowing you to recover 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 save lives and are often mandated. One of the issues with muffled voices is that individuals may be tempted to take off their masks, and that’s the last thing we should do.
So make an appointment with us, wear your hearing aid, and keep your mask on. Sticking with these guidelines will keep you safe and improve your quality of life.