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Audiology Specialty Clinic - Sioux Falls, SD

Mature man getting his hearing checked during the pandemic.

You wear your mask when you go out, sometimes two of them, and you generally don’t mind. The only trouble is, sometimes it’s hard 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. In some cases, it’s so bad you can barely grasp a single word. They’re also wearing masks, of course. However, the mask might not be the only source of your trouble. The real issue could lie with your hearing. Or, to say it differently: those muffled voices you hear during the pandemic may be revealing your hearing impairment.

The Human Voice is Muffled by a Mask

Most good masks are designed to prevent the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. In the instance 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 done). Limiting and stopping COVID-19, as a result, has been proven really effective by wearing masks.

Unfortunately, those same masks impede the movement of sound waves. The human voice will be somewhat muffled by a mask. It’s not really a big problem for most people. But if hearing loss is an issue for you and muffled voices are suddenly all around you, it might be difficult for you to make out anything being said.

Hearing Loss Makes Your Brain Work Harder

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

Without you recognizing it, your brain utilizes contextual information to help you comprehend what’s being said, even if you can’t hear it. 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.

Many of these visual clues are concealed when someone is wearing a mask. You can’t see the shape of someone’s lips or the position of the mouth. You don’t even know if they are frowning or smiling.

Mental Fatigue

Your brain has a really difficult time trying to interpret what’s being said without that extra visual information. 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 regular circumstances, a constantly compensating brain can cause significant mental fatigue, often resulting in irritability or memory loss. Your brain will become even more tired when everyone is wearing a mask (but leave it on because it’s important for community protection).

Hearing Solutions

These concerns are being brought into focus and hearing loss is being revealed by the pandemic. It’s not creating the condition in the first place, but it may have otherwise gone undetected because hearing loss usually progresses rather slowly. In the early phases of hearing loss we usually don’t even notice it and frequently start raising the volume on our devices (you might not even detect this taking place).

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

If you are having a tough time hearing what people are saying when they’re wearing a mask, this is particularly true. Together we can determine ways to make you more comfortable talking with people wearing a mask. For example, hearing aids can help you get back 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

It’s essential to remember to wear your mask even as the pandemic exposes hearing loss. Masks save lives and are frequently mandated. One of the problems with muffled voices is that individuals might be tempted to remove their masks, and that’s the last thing we should be doing.

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

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