How The Pandemic Uncovers Hearing Loss

Mature man getting his hearing checked during the pandemic.

Generally, you don’t mind wearing a mask (or sometimes even two) when you leave your house. At times, however, you have a tough time hearing interactions. When you go to the grocery store or visit your doctor’s office, the voices of cashiers and receptionists are muffled, even distorted. Sometimes, it’s so bad you can scarcely understand a single word. Naturally, they’re wearing masks, as well. Our face coverings aren’t completely at fault, however. The real issue may be your hearing. 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 quality masks are manufactured to prevent the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. In the case of COVID-19, that’s rather beneficial because most evidence indicates that water droplets as a contributing factor (all these results, however, are still preliminary and studies are still being conducted). As a result, masks have proven very successful at curtailing and stopping the spread of COVID-19.

However, those same masks hinder the movement of sound waves. The human voice will be somewhat muffled by a mask. For most individuals, it’s not a problem. But if you suffer from hearing loss and muffled voices are suddenly all around you, it might be hard for you to comprehend anything being said.

Your Brain Compensates For Hearing Impairment

But your trouble understanding people wearing masks probably isn’t simply because voices are muffled. It’s more involved than that. The thing is, the brain is, to some degree, skilled at compensating for variations in sound quality.

Even if you’re unable to hear what’s going on, 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’re unable to hear.

When someone is wearing a mask, many of those linguistic cues are hidden. The position of someone’s mouth and the movements of their lips is hidden. You don’t even know if they are frowning or smiling.

Mental Fatigue

Without that added information, it’s harder for your brain to compensate for the audio information you aren’t receiving automatically. So mumbling is probably all you will hear. And your brain will get tired even if it is able to piece together what was said.

Under normal conditions, a constantly compensating brain can cause significant mental fatigue, often resulting in impatience or memory loss. Your brain will become even more tired when everyone is wearing a mask (but leave it on because it’s essential for community protection).

Hearing Solutions

These concerns are being brought to your attention and hearing loss is being uncovered by the pandemic. It’s not causing the condition in the first place, but it may have otherwise gone unnoticed because hearing loss typically progresses relatively slowly. In the early stages of hearing loss we typically don’t even notice it and frequently start raising the volume on our devices (you may not even recognize this occurring).

This is why coming in to see us regularly is so important. We can identify early hearing loss, frequently before you even notice it, because of the screenings we carry out.

If you are having a tough time understanding what people are saying when they’re wearing a mask, this is particularly true. Together we can determine ways to make you more comfortable speaking with people who are wearing a mask. Hearing aids, for example, can offer substantial benefits, allowing you to regain a lot of your functional hearing range. Voices behind the mask will be easier to hear and understand with hearing aids.

Keep Your Mask on

As the pandemic exposes hearing loss, it’s important to remember you must keep your mask on. Masks are frequently mandated or required because they save lives. One of the problems with muffled voices is that people might be tempted to remove 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 efforts will ultimately improve your quality of life, and help keep you safe, as well.

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.