Masks make it hard for everyone to hear — hearing loss or not — but if you are struggling to hear more than the average person, it may not just be the mask, it may be your hearing. Hearing loss often comes on gradually, making it hard to notice at first. It may seem like everyone has started mumbling or the speakers on the television have stopped working properly. It can be upsetting and frustrating, especially since it now takes more effort to communicate effectively. Conversing with people with masks will make it harder still, since you are losing important clues like facial expression and lip movements that you may have been using to decipher speech.
Hearing Loss — Know the Signs
If you feel like you are struggling to understand people wearing masks, you are not alone, but if you are having trouble hearing in other situations too, it may be time for a hearing test. It is important to know the signs so you can take action as needed. How many on the list below ring true for you?
You hear the voices, but cannot understand the words.
This is the most frustrating part of hearing loss. You know that someone is talking to you, but you cannot make out the meaning. It may seem like people are mumbling or slurring their words together. By blocking lipreading clues, masks make understanding speech even harder.
Your family complains the TV is too loud.
With fewer leisure activities open and available, the TV has become many people’s primary source of entertainment. If your family complains that you set the TV volume too high, this could be a sign of hearing loss. Turning on the closed captions to help you fill in the blanks you are missing may allow you to reset the TV volume to a level that is more comfortable for everyone. But it won’t erase the hearing loss.
Hearing on the phone or on a video conference call is challenging.
You may be starting to avoid social interactions, even the socially distanced kind, for fear of not being able to hear over the phone or on the computer. This can lead to some of the most dangerous side effects of hearing loss — isolation and depression. Using speech-to-text apps or sound amplifier apps may help in these settings.
It is hard for you to hear in noisy environments.
As Covid-19 restrictions ease, you may be venturing out into the world a bit more often. If crowded or loud venues make it harder for you to hear, this can be a sign of hearing loss. Cocktail parties and loud restaurants can often be the most challenging settings, but even playing music while enjoying a quiet dinner at home with family can make it harder for people with hearing loss to follow the conversation.
Masks make it much harder for you to hear.
You may be lipreading without realizing it. Many people use facial cues and lip movements to help them better understand the emotion and intent behind what people say, but for people with hearing loss, these clues are imperative to understanding. That is why many people with hearing loss are advocating for clear masks that will help make these facial clues more visible.
Communication has become exhausting.
When you have hearing loss, understanding speech does not come naturally. It takes work to make sense of the assorted and incomplete sounds you are hearing and turn them into words or phrases that makes sense in the context of the conversation. This is not easy, especially since the discussion does not pause while you are doing this extra processing. This mental activity is known as listening effort, and it can lead to hearing loss exhaustion.
Important Reasons To Get Your Hearing Tested
Hearing loss can make life more difficult, but recognizing the signs early will allow you to take action to improve your communication options and minimize associated health issues. Many people with hearing loss live in denial of their hearing loss for seven to ten years before taking action to correct it. That was my story, and it was a mistake. Covid-19 and masks may accelerate the testing process for many. If so, that would be a least one bit of good news from this crisis.
Get the facts by taking a hearing test. A test a local audiologist office is the best option, but many online screenings are also available. Most hearing aid companies offer free hearing tests on their websites. In the United States, you can also take the National Hearing Test over the phone. It is free for AARP members or $8 otherwise.
Please don’t wait. If you feel like you are having trouble hearing, get your hearing tested today.
Readers, has your hearing loss been unmasked by Covid-19?