Have masks exposed your hearing loss?

It’s no secret that wearing masks can make it difficult to clearly hear and understand what people are saying. From asking the grocery clerk where the peas are to ordering dinner through a masked server on a patio along a busy street, there’s no doubt that communication has become a little extra challenging. 

But if it seems a little harder for you than others around you, you may be suffering from hearing loss.

Sound is measured in decibels (dB); a higher decibel level indicates louder sound. For example, a rocket launch measures 180 dB, while a normal conversation registers around 60. So, how do masks affect decibel levels? Even for those with normal hearing, speech understanding is reduced by 3-4 dB for simple medical masks; close to 12 dB for N95 masks — about a 20% reduction. This means that comprehension almost completely goes out the window for those who have untreated hearing loss.

In addition to losing speech clarity, masks also take away our ability to read lips and see facial expressions — two key parts of speech understanding used since the beginning of time. Losing these three important elements are hard for anyone, but debilitating if you’ve started to lose your hearing. 

While masks may be your first clue to a hearing problem, look for these additional key signs that may indicate mild to severe hearing loss. 

You can hear, but can’t understand

One of the most common signs of hearing loss is difficulty understanding speech. You might be able to hear the sound of someone talking but not comprehend what they’re saying. It may even sound like they’re mumbling. For example, you might confuse “What time is it?” with “What kind is it?”, which then leads to you responding incorrectly. 

Today’s hearing aids now contain special speech-enhancing algorithms that provide crystal-clear speech clarity in any situation. Some manufacturers have even added a “mask mode” feature that boosts speech clarity in masked situations.

You’re constantly told to turn down the TV

Is someone in your household always telling you the TV is too loud? You may find yourself compensating by turning the volume down and the closed captioning on. While this may help you still follow your favorite programs, it won’t fix your hearing loss. There is a way to do both. 

Today’s hearing devices amplify the frequencies and pitches you’re missing to allow you to hear those sounds again at normal levels. Also, the Bluetooth feature on today’s hearing aids allows you to stream your favorite television shows right into your hearing aids. This means you can finally turn the volume down for good. 

It’s hard to hear in groups of people, noisy environments

Does it seem harder to hear when more people are around, or if music is on during your conversations? Maybe you’re unable to tell which direction sound is coming from. When you have hearing loss, you lose sound directionality and the ability to focus on what’s most important, especially in a crowd or when there’s more sound action occurring around you. 

Thanks to a technology chip that’s 50 times faster than just 5 years ago, medical-grade hearing aids now provide you with natural 360-degree sound, wind and noise reduction and the ability to focus on conversations, even in a crowd.

You feel fatigued after conversations, TV and more

You may not realize that you actually hear with your brain and not your ears. So when you can’t hear, your brain has to work overtime to try and make sense of sound. Everyday activities like watching TV or talking with your family at the dinner table can become less enjoyable and more exhausting. Most likely you feel like you need a nap afterward, or worse, want to stop communicating altogether. 

Today’s new hearing aids make listening and understanding effortless again. Once you start wearing them and adapt to hearing all the sounds you’ve been missing, you’ll find yourself with more energy because your brain will be less stressed and able to hear sound naturally again.

Try hearing aids with zero risk

Through our 45-day trial and proven Hearing Success ProgramTM that provides one-on-one personal support, you can try modern, medical-grade hearing aids at no risk. You’ll have professional guidance and emotional support from us all along the way. 

Treating your hearing loss sooner than later is key to navigating our masked world and protecting your health and your hearing for years to come.

Lauri Tucker

Growing up with an aunt who’s worn hearing aids for 40 years, and a nephew who’s deaf in one ear, Lauri wanted to support and inspire others with hearing loss. She’s the senior copywriter at hear.com.

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