Generally, you don’t mind wearing a mask (or sometimes even two) when you go out. Occasionally, though, you have a hard time hearing conversations. Voices are muffled and even distorted when you go to the doctor’s office or store. Quite often, you can’t make out anything that’s being said. Of course, they’re wearing masks, as well. Our face coverings aren’t totally at fault, though. It may be your hearing that’s the problem. Or, to say it differently: those muffled voices you’re hearing during the pandemic might be uncovering your hearing loss.
The Human Voice is Muffled by a Mask
Most good masks are manufactured to prevent the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. In the case of COVID-19, that’s pretty useful 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). As a result, masks have shown to be very successful at limiting and stopping the spread of COVID-19.
But masks obviously can stop the projection of sound waves. The human voice will be a bit muffled by a mask. It’s not really much of a concern for most people. But if hearing loss is a problem for you and muffled voices suddenly surround you, it might be hard for you to make out anything being said.
Hearing Loss Makes Your Brain Work Harder
The obstruction of sound waves likely isn’t the sole reason you’re having difficulty understanding someone wearing a mask. It’s more involved 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 situation into context and use that information to interpret what’s being said. Body language, facial expressions, even lip movements are all synthesized by your brain naturally to help you compensate for what you can’t hear.
Many of these visual indicators are hidden when somebody is wearing a mask. The position of someone’s mouth and the movements of their lips is hidden. You can’t even tell if it’s a smile or a frown behind the mask.
Your brain has a very difficult time trying to translate what’s being said without that extra visual information. So mumbling is probably all you will hear. Even if your brain can, somehow, make sense of what was said, your brain will get tired.
The exhaustion of a brain trying to continually compensate, under typical circumstances, can result in memory loss and impatience. Your brain will become even more tired when everybody is wearing a mask (but keep it on because it’s important for community protection).
These concerns are being brought into focus and hearing loss is being uncovered by the pandemic. It’s not creating the condition in the first place, but it might have otherwise gone undetected because hearing loss usually advances rather slowly. When your hearing initially begins to diminish, you might dismiss the symptoms and raise the volume on the television (maybe you don’t even know you’re doing it).
This is the reason why coming in to see us on a regular basis is so important. We can diagnose early hearing loss, frequently before you even notice it, because of the screenings we perform.
If you’re having a tough 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 instance, can provide substantial benefits, allowing you to regain a lot 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 important to remember to keep your mask on even as the pandemic exposes hearing loss. Masks save lives and are frequently mandated. One of the issues with muffled voices is that people might be tempted to remove their masks, and that’s the last thing we should be doing.
So schedule an appointment with us, use your hearing aid, and keep your mask on. These initiatives will inevitably improve your quality of life, and help keep you safe, as well.