How The Pandemic Reveals Hearing Loss

Mature man getting his hearing checked during the pandemic.

Typically, you don’t mind wearing a mask (or sometimes even two) when you go out. The only trouble is, sometimes it’s difficult to hear what other people are saying. When you go to the grocery store or doctor’s appointment, the voices of cashiers and receptionists are muffled, even distorted. Quite often, you can’t understand anything that’s being said. Naturally, they’re wearing masks, too. Our face coverings aren’t totally at fault, however. The real issue could be your hearing. Or, to say it differently: those muffled voices you hear during the pandemic may be exposing your hearing impairment.

Masks Muffle The Human Voice

Most good masks are made to prevent the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. The majority of evidence indicates airborne water droplets as a contributing factor in the instance of COVID-19 so that’s very useful (although the science regarding the spread is still being conducted, so all findings are in early stages). Curtailing and stopping COVID-19, consequently, has been shown to be really effective by wearing masks.

But masks clearly can block the movement of sound waves. The human voice will be a bit 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 may be hard for you to comprehend anything being said.

Hearing Loss Makes Your Brain Work Overtime

But your difficulty understanding people wearing masks most likely isn’t only because voices are muffled. There’s more going on than that. The thing is, the brain is, to some extent, adept at compensating for fluctuations in sound quality.

Without you recognizing it, your brain makes use of contextual information to help you understand what’s being said, even if you are unable to hear it. Your brain will synthesize things like facial expressions, body language, and especially lip movements to compensate for anything it can’t hear.

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

Mental Fatigue

Without that additional input, it’s more difficult for your brain to compensate for the audio information you aren’t getting 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.

The exhaustion of a brain trying to continually compensate, under typical circumstances, can cause loss of memory and impatience. Your brain will become even more fatigued when everybody is wearing a mask (but keep it on because it’s essential for community protection).

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 typically advances quite slowly. When your hearing initially begins to diminish, you might disregard the symptoms and turn up the volume on the television (maybe you don’t even notice you’re doing it).

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

This is especially true for individuals presently having difficulty comprehending conversations through a mask. Together we can find strategies to make you more comfortable talking with people who are wearing a mask. Hearing aids, for example, can provide substantial 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 keep your mask on even as the pandemic exposes hearing loss. Masks save lives and are often mandated. The last thing we should do, no matter how tempting, is remove our mask.

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