Hearing Health Blog

Mature man getting his hearing checked during the pandemic.

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 hard 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, it’s so bad you can hardly understand a single word. Naturally, they’re wearing masks, as well. However, the mask might not be the exclusive source of your difficulty. It may be your hearing that’s the problem. Or, to say it differently: those muffled voices you hear during the pandemic could be exposing 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 instance of COVID-19, that’s rather beneficial because the majority of evidence points toward water droplets as a prominent factor (although the science on the spread is still being done, so all findings are in early stages). As a result, masks have proven quite effective at curtailing and preventing the spread of COVID-19.

But masks clearly 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 concern for most people. But if you suffer from hearing loss and muffled voices suddenly surround you, it could be hard for you to comprehend anything being said.

Your Brain Compensates For Hearing Loss

The obstruction of sound waves likely isn’t the sole reason you’re having difficulty 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 variations in sound quality.

Even if you’re unable to hear what’s happening, your brain will put the event 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 clues are hidden when somebody is wearing a mask. 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 frown or smile behind the mask.

Mental Fatigue

Without that additional information, it’s more difficult for your brain to make up 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.

Under normal circumstances, a constantly compensating brain can cause significant mental fatigue, often resulting in irritability or loss of memory. With masks in place, your brain will become even more fatigued (it’s important to remember masks are essential protection, so keep them on).

Hearing Solutions

The pandemic is revealing hearing loss by bringing these concerns to your attention. It’s not causing the condition in the first place, but it may have otherwise gone unnoticed because hearing loss usually progresses rather slowly. When your hearing first starts to decline, you may disregard the symptoms and turn up the volume on the television (you might not even detect this taking place).

This is the reason why coming in to see us on a regular basis is so important. We can detect early hearing loss, frequently before you even notice it, because of the screenings we carry out.

If you’re having a tough 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 who are wearing a mask. 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 understand the voices behind the masks.

Keep Your Mask on

As the pandemic reveals hearing loss, it’s important to remember you will need to keep your mask on. Masks are often mandated or required because they save lives. One of the problems with muffled voices is that individuals may be tempted to take off their masks, and that’s the last thing we should be doing.

So leave your mask on, make an appointment with us, and use your hearing aids. These initiatives will ultimately enhance your quality of life, and help keep you safe, as well.

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