You wear your mask when you leave your house, sometimes two of them, and you typically don’t mind. At times, however, you have a hard time hearing interactions. Voices are muffled and even distorted when you go to the store or doctor’s office. In some cases, it’s so bad you can hardly perceive a single word. They’re also wearing masks, of course. Our face coverings aren’t completely at fault, however. 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 loss.
Masks Muffle The Human Voice
Most quality masks are manufactured to stop the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. In the instance of COVID-19, that’s pretty beneficial because most evidence points toward water droplets as a contributing factor (all these findings, though, are still preliminary and research is still being carried out). As a result, masks have shown to be very effective at curtailing and stopping the spread of COVID-19.
But masks obviously can stop the movement of sound waves. Masks can slightly muffle the human voice. It’s not really much of a concern for most individuals. But if hearing loss is a problem for you and muffled voices suddenly surround you, it could be difficult for you to understand anything being said.
Your Brain Compensates For Hearing Loss
But your difficulty understanding people wearing masks probably isn’t simply because voices are muffled. There’s more going on than that. The thing is, the brain is, to some extent, adept at compensating for variations in sound quality.
Even if you can’t hear what’s going on, your brain will put the situation into context and use that information to interpret what’s being said. Your brain will synthesize physical clues like facial expressions, body language, and particularly lip movements to compensate for anything it can’t hear.
Many of these visual indicators are concealed when somebody is wearing a mask. 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.
Without that additional input, it’s more difficult for your brain to compensate for the audio clues you aren’t receiving automatically. 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 continually compensate, under typical circumstances, can result in loss of memory and impatience. Your brain will become even more fatigued when everybody is wearing a mask (but leave it on because it’s essential for community protection).
The pandemic is revealing hearing loss by bringing these issues into focus. It’s not causing the condition in the first place, but it might have otherwise gone unnoticed because hearing loss commonly progresses quite slowly. In the early phases of hearing loss we usually don’t even detect it and often start raising the volume on our devices (you might not even recognize this occurring).
This is why coming in to see us regularly is so important. Because of the variety of screenings we carry out, we can detect issues with your hearing early, often before you notice it yourself.
If you’re having a tough time understanding what people are saying when they’re wearing a mask, this is especially true. Together we can find ways to make you more comfortable conversing with people wearing a mask. Hearing aids, for instance, can produce substantial benefits, allowing you to regain much of your functional hearing range. Voices behind the mask will be easier to hear and understand with hearing aids.
Keep Your Mask on
It’s important to remember to wear your mask even as the pandemic exposes hearing loss. Masks save lives and are frequently mandated. One of the issues with muffled voices is that people may 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. These initiatives will inevitably improve your quality of life, and help keep you safe, as well.