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 generally don’t mind. The only trouble is, sometimes it’s tough to hear what other people are saying. When you go to the grocery store or visit your doctor’s office, the voices of cashiers and receptionists are muffled, even distorted. Quite often, you can’t make out anything that’s being said. They’re also wearing masks, obviously. Our face coverings aren’t completely at fault, though. The real problem could lie with your hearing. Or, to put it another way: those muffled voices you hear during the pandemic could be revealing your hearing impairment.

Speech is Muffled by a Mask

Most quality masks are made to prevent the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. Most evidence indicates airborne water droplets as a contributing factor in the instance of COVID-19 so that’s pretty useful (all these findings, however, are still preliminary and studies are still being conducted). Limiting and stopping COVID-19, consequently, has been shown to be really practical by wearing masks.

However, those same masks interfere with 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 you suffer from hearing loss and muffled voices are suddenly all around you, it might be hard for you to understand anything being said.

Your Brain Compensates For Hearing Loss

The impediment of sound waves likely isn’t the sole reason you’re having trouble understanding someone wearing a mask. It’s more involved than that. You see, the brain is really good at compensating for changes in your hearing, up to a point.

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 automatically to help you compensate for what you’re unable to hear.

Many of these visual hints are hidden when somebody is wearing a mask. The position of somebody’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.

Mental Fatigue

Without that added information, it’s more difficult for your brain to compensate for the audio information you aren’t receiving automatically. 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.

Under normal circumstances, a continually compensating brain can cause significant mental exhaustion, sometimes resulting in impatience 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 uncovering hearing loss by bringing these issues to your attention. Hearing loss usually develops gradually over time and might not have been detected in different circumstances. When your hearing initially begins to diminish, you may dismiss the symptoms and raise the volume on the television (you might not even recognize this taking place).

That’s why it’s worthwhile to visit us on a regular basis. We can identify early hearing loss, often before you even notice it, because of the screenings we perform.

If you’re having a difficult time hearing what people are saying when they’re wearing a mask, this is especially true. Together we can find ways to make you more comfortable talking with people wearing a mask. Hearing aids, for instance, can provide substantial benefits, allowing you to recover much of your functional hearing range. Hearing aids will make it much easier to hear, and understand the voices behind the masks.

Keep Your Mask on

As the pandemic exposes hearing loss, it’s important to remember you must 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 remove their masks, and that’s the last thing we should be doing.

So schedule an appointment with us, use your hearing aid, and leave your mask on. These efforts will inevitably improve your quality of life, and help keep you safe, as well.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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