You wear your mask when you leave your house, sometimes more than one, and you typically don’t mind. The only trouble is, sometimes it’s tough to hear what other people are saying. When you go to the grocery store or doctor’s appointment, the voices of cashiers and receptionists are muffled, even distorted. In some cases, it’s so bad you can scarcely grasp a single word. They’re also wearing masks, obviously. However, the mask might not be the only source of your difficulty. The real issue may be your hearing. Or, to put it another way: those muffled voices you’re hearing during the pandemic may be exposing your hearing impairment.
The Human Voice is Muffled by a Mask
Most quality masks are made to prevent the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. Most evidence points to airborne water droplets as a contributing factor in the case of COVID-19 so that’s very useful (although the science regarding the spread is still being conducted, so all results are in early stages). Curtailing and preventing COVID-19, consequently, has been shown to be really effective by wearing masks.
Unfortunately, those same masks impede the projection of sound waves. Masks can block the human voice slightly. It’s not really much of a problem for most individuals. But if you have hearing loss and muffled voices suddenly surround you, it may be hard for you to make out anything being said.
Your Brain Compensates For Hearing Impairment
The impediment of sound waves probably isn’t the only reason you’re having trouble understanding someone wearing a mask. There’s more going on than that. The thing is, the brain is, to some degree, adept at compensating for fluctuations in sound quality.
Even if you can’t 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 naturally to help you compensate for what you can’t hear.
When someone is wearing a mask, many of those visual cues are concealed. 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 added input, it’s harder 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. Even if your brain can, somehow, make sense of what was said, your brain will get tired.
The exhaustion of a brain trying to constantly compensate, under normal circumstances, can cause memory loss and irritability. With masks on, your brain will become even more exhausted (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 commonly advances slowly over time and may not have been detected in other circumstances. In the early stages of hearing loss we normally don’t even detect it and often start raising the volume on our devices (you may not even detect this happening).
That’s why it’s worthwhile to visit us regularly. Because of the kinds of screenings we do, we can detect problems with your hearing early, often before you notice it yourself.
If you are having a hard time hearing what people are saying when they are wearing a mask, this is especially true. Together we can find ways to make you more comfortable speaking with people wearing a mask. For example, hearing aids can help you get back a lot of your functional hearing range and can provide other significant benefits. Hearing aids will make it much easier to hear, and understand the voices behind the masks.
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 problems with muffled voices is that individuals may be tempted to remove their masks, and that’s the last thing we should do.
So leave your mask on, make an appointment with us, and wear your hearing aids. Sticking with these recommendations will keep you safe and enhance your quality of life.