You wear your mask when you leave your house, sometimes two of them, and you typically don’t mind. The only trouble is, sometimes it’s hard to hear what other people are saying. Voices are muffled and even distorted when you go to the doctor’s office or store. In some cases, it’s so bad you can hardly perceive a single word. They’re also wearing masks, obviously. Our face coverings aren’t really at fault, however. The real issue 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 designed to stop the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. In the case of COVID-19, that’s rather beneficial because the majority of evidence points toward water droplets as a contributing factor (all these results, though, are still in early stages and studies are still being conducted). This means that masks have shown to be very successful at limiting and stopping the spread of COVID-19.
But masks obviously can block the movement of sound waves. The human voice will be a bit muffled by a mask. For the majority of people, it’s not a big deal. But if hearing loss is a problem for you and muffled voices are suddenly all around you, it may be difficult for you to hear anything being said.
Hearing Impairment Makes Your Brain Work Harder
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. You see, the brain is really good at compensating for fluctuations in your hearing, up to a point.
Even if you can’t hear what’s happening, your brain will put the situation 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 automatically to help you compensate for what you can’t hear.
When somebody is wearing a mask, many of those linguistic cues are hidden. You can’t see the shape of someone’s lips or the alignment of the mouth. You can’t even see if it’s a smile or a frown behind the mask.
Without that added information, it’s harder for your brain to make up for the audio information you aren’t getting 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.
Under regular conditions, a continually compensating brain can cause considerable mental fatigue, sometimes resulting in irritability or loss of memory. With masks in place, your brain will become even more exhausted (it’s worthwhile to remember masks are essential protection, so keep them on).
The pandemic is exposing hearing loss by bringing these issues into focus. Hearing loss typically advances gradually over time and may not have been noticed in other circumstances. In the early phases of hearing loss we typically don’t even detect it and often start turning up the volume on our devices (you might not even detect this occurring).
This is why coming in to see us on a regular basis is so important. Because of the variety of screenings we perform, we can identify problems with your hearing early, often before you observe it yourself.
This is especially true for individuals currently having trouble comprehending conversations through a mask. We can help you discover methods to help you navigate a masked world. For example, hearing aids can help you recover a lot of your functional hearing range and can provide other significant benefits. Hearing aids will make it a great deal easier to hear, and comprehend the voices behind the masks.
Keep Your Mask on
As the pandemic exposes hearing loss, it’s crucial to remember you must keep your mask on. Masks are often mandated or required because they save lives. The last thing we should do, regardless of how tempting, is remove our mask.
So keep your mask on, schedule an appointment with us, and wear your hearing aids. These initiatives will ultimately improve your quality of life, and help keep you safe, as well.