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Center For Better Hearing - Glens Falls, NY

Mature man getting his hearing checked during the pandemic.

You wear your mask when you leave your house, sometimes two of them, and you generally don’t mind. The only trouble is, sometimes it’s difficult 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. Quite often, you can’t understand anything that’s being said. They’re also wearing masks, obviously. Our face coverings aren’t completely at fault, however. It might be your hearing that’s the problem. Or, to say it another way: those muffled voices you hear during the pandemic might be uncovering your hearing loss.

The Human Voice is Muffled by a Mask

Most quality masks are designed to stop the spread of airborne particles or water droplets. The majority of evidence points to airborne water droplets as a contributing factor in the case of COVID-19 so that’s very useful (all these findings, though, are still preliminary and research is still being carried out). Limiting and stopping COVID-19, consequently, has been shown to be very practical by wearing masks.

However, those same masks interfere with the projection of sound waves. Masks can block the human voice slightly. It’s not really much of a concern for most people. But if hearing loss is an issue for you and muffled voices are suddenly all around you, it might be hard for you to comprehend anything being said.

Your Brain Compensates For Hearing Loss

But your difficulty understanding people wearing masks probably isn’t only because voices are muffled. There’s more going on than that. You see, the brain is very good at compensating for changes in your hearing, up to a point.

Without you recognizing it, your brain utilizes contextual information to help you understand what’s being said, even if you can’t hear it. Facial expressions, body language, even lip movements are all synthesized by your brain naturally to help you compensate for what you can’t hear.

Many of these visual indicators are concealed when someone is wearing a mask. You can’t see the shape of somebody’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 hard time attempting to interpret what’s being said without that extra visual information. 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 fatigue of a brain trying to continually compensate, under typical circumstances, can lead to loss of memory and impatience. With masks on, your brain will become even more fatigued (it’s important to remember masks are essential protection, so keep them on).

Hearing Solutions

These issues are being brought into focus and hearing loss is being uncovered by the pandemic. It’s not creating the condition in the first place, but it might have otherwise gone unnoticed because hearing loss typically advances quite slowly. When your hearing first starts to decline, you may ignore the symptoms and turn up the volume on the television (maybe you don’t even realize you’re doing it).

That’s why it’s important to visit us regularly. Because of the kinds of screenings we carry out, we can diagnose problems with your hearing early, frequently before you observe it yourself.

This is especially true for anyone presently having difficulty understanding conversations through a mask. Together we can find strategies to make you more comfortable speaking with people wearing a mask. Hearing aids, for instance, can provide substantial benefits, allowing you to regain much of your functional hearing range. Hearing aids will make it a lot easier to hear, and comprehend the voices behind the masks.

Keep Your Mask on

As the pandemic exposes hearing loss, it’s important to remember you will need to keep your mask on. Masks save lives and are often mandated. The last thing we should do, no matter how tempting, is remove our mask.

So schedule an appointment with us, use your hearing aid, and keep your mask on. Sticking with these suggestions will keep you safe and enhance your quality of life.

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