You wear your mask when you leave your house, sometimes two of them, and you generally don’t mind. The only trouble is, sometimes it’s difficult to hear what other people are saying. When you go to the supermarket or visit your doctor’s office, the voices of cashiers and receptionists are muffled, even distorted. Sometimes, you can’t make out anything that’s being said. Naturally, they’re wearing masks, too. Our face coverings aren’t completely at fault, though. The real problem may be your hearing. Or, to say it differently: those muffled voices you hear during the pandemic may be exposing your hearing impairment.
Speech is Muffled by a Mask
Most quality masks are manufactured to stop the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. The majority of evidence points to airborne water droplets as a contributing factor in the instance of COVID-19 so that’s pretty useful (all these findings, though, are still preliminary and research is still being conducted). Curtailing and stopping COVID-19, as a result, has been shown to be very effective by wearing masks.
However, those same masks hinder the movement of sound waves. Masks can slightly muffle the human voice. For most individuals, it’s not a big deal. But if hearing loss is a problem for you 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 likely isn’t the sole reason you’re having difficulty comprehending someone wearing a mask. It’s more involved than that. The thing is, the brain is, to some degree, skilled 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. Your brain will synthesize things like facial expressions, body language, and especially lip movements to compensate for what it can’t hear.
When somebody is wearing a mask, many of those linguistic cues are hidden. The position of someone’s mouth and the movements of their lips is hidden. You can’t even tell if it’s a frown or smile behind the mask.
Your brain has a really hard time attempting to translate what’s being said without that added visual information. 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 fatigue of a brain trying to continually compensate, under normal circumstances, can lead to loss of memory and irritability. With masks in place, your brain will become even more tired (it’s worthwhile to remember masks are essential protection, so keep them on).
These issues are being brought into focus and hearing loss is being revealed by the pandemic. Hearing loss usually develops gradually over time and may not have been detected in other circumstances. When your hearing first starts to diminish, you may ignore the symptoms and turn up the volume on the television (you may not even realize you’re doing it).
That’s why it’s important to visit us regularly. We can diagnose early hearing loss, frequently before you even notice it, because of the screenings we carry out.
If you are having a hard time understanding what people are saying when they’re wearing a mask, this is particularly true. Together we can find ways to make you more comfortable conversing with people who are wearing a mask. Hearing aids, for example, can produce significant 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
As the pandemic exposes hearing loss, it’s crucial to remember you will need to keep your mask on. Masks are often mandated or required because they save lives. One of the issues with muffled voices is that individuals may be tempted to remove their masks, and that’s the last thing we should do.
So keep your mask on, make an appointment with us, and wear your hearing aids. These efforts will ultimately enhance your quality of life, and help keep you safe, as well.