Generally, you don’t mind wearing a mask (or sometimes even two) when you leave your house. The only trouble is, sometimes it’s hard to hear what other people are saying. When you go to the supermarket or doctor’s appointment, the voices of cashiers and receptionists are muffled, even distorted. In some cases, it’s so bad you can hardly understand a single word. Of course, they’re wearing masks, as well. However, the mask might not be the only source of your difficulty. The real problem could lie with your hearing. Or, to say it differently: those muffled voices you hear during the pandemic could be uncovering your hearing loss.
Masks Muffle Speech
Most quality masks are made 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 results, though, are still preliminary and research is still being conducted). Curtailing and preventing COVID-19, as a result, has been proven really practical by wearing masks.
But masks obviously can stop the movement of sound waves. The human voice will be a bit muffled by a mask. It’s not really much of a problem for most people. But if hearing loss is an issue for you and muffled voices suddenly surround you, it may be hard for you to understand anything being said.
Hearing Loss Makes Your Brain Work Overtime
But your trouble understanding people wearing masks probably isn’t only because voices are muffled. There’s more going on than that. You see, the brain is extremely good at compensating for changes in your hearing, up to a point.
Without you recognizing it, your brain utilizes contextual information to help you understand what’s being said, even if you can’t hear it. Your brain will synthesize things like facial expressions, body language, and especially lip movements to compensate for what it can’t hear.
Many of these visual hints are hidden when someone is wearing a mask. You can’t see the shape of somebody’s lips or the alignment of the mouth. You don’t even know if they are smiling or frowning.
Without that added input, it’s more difficult for your brain to compensate for the audio information 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.
Under normal circumstances, a continuously compensating brain can cause significant mental exhaustion, sometimes resulting in irritability or memory loss. With masks on, your brain will become even more exhausted (it’s worthwhile to remember masks are essential protection, so keep them on).
The pandemic is revealing hearing loss by bringing these issues to your attention. It’s not causing the condition in the first place, but it might have otherwise gone unnoticed because hearing loss usually advances relatively slowly. In the early stages of hearing loss we typically don’t even notice it and often start raising the volume on our devices (maybe you don’t even notice you’re doing it).
This is the reason why coming in to see us on a regular basis is so essential. Because of the variety of screenings we perform, we can identify problems with your hearing early, often before you notice it yourself.
If you’re having a hard time understanding what people are saying when they are wearing a mask, this is especially true. We can help you discover methods to help you navigate a masked world. Hearing aids, for instance, 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
It’s essential to remember to wear your mask even as the pandemic exposes hearing loss. Masks save lives and are frequently mandated. One of the problems with muffled voices is that people might be tempted to take off their masks, and that’s the last thing we should be doing.
So make an appointment with us, wear your hearing aid, and leave your mask on. These initiatives will ultimately enhance your quality of life, and help keep you safe, as well.