Recent reports said that the face masks that we wear to protect ourselves and others from “Covid-19”, have helped reveal a new health problem facing those who suffer from hearing impairment. Reports indicate that audiologists across the United States noticed a slight increase in patient visits who realized their dependence on lip-reading and facial expressions after people began wearing masks that cover the nose and mouth.
“Most likely, these are people who have had some type of hearing loss before, but were able to cope,” said Andrea Gomert, director of the University of Texas Hearing Clinic at the Callier Center for Communication Disorders in Dallas. Most of the time, hearing loss occurs gradually, and people often wait about seven years to get a hearing test, according to audiologists, the specialists who evaluate hearing.
“We would have seen these people eventually, but it would have been a few years before they saw the doctors, not now,” said Catherine Palmer, director of audiology at UPMC Healthcare in West Pennsylvania.
Audiologists explain that the lack of visual expressions only makes hearing difficult, and that masks and plastic barriers also reduce the level of sound, as well as that “Covid-19” makes us adhere to social distancing that makes us stand far from the person we are talking to, which is another mechanism that must be Adapt to it.
Palmer, who has just finished her tenure as president of the American Academy of Audiology, said that people with normal hearing can control whether voices are slightly muffled, but those with some hearing loss face a much harder time. A professor at Washington University in St. Louis, Nancy Tay Murray, said the visual image is a “powerful complement” to hearing.
“Most people with hearing loss do not realize that they depend on the image very much, and even people with normal hearing depend on it, for example, when you are in a noisy restaurant,” she added. Palmer noted that adults can usually fill in the blanks and find words that they cannot hear, but it is exhausting.
Once people are provided with hearing aids, they realize that “a lot of this effort in listening is being discarded,” said audiologist Lori Delia at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio. Palmer pointed out that the masks caused another problem for those who wear hearing aids, as they lose or damage the hearing aids.