COVID-19 and Hearing Loss: New Challenges for Many


Most of us are getting used to wearing masks in public and when with others outside of our household to slow the spread of COVID-19. But, we still face challenges – fogging glasses, less breathability, forgetting what the local grocery store clerk’s smile looks like.

I’m hearing from some of my patients that masks are presenting another challenge for those with mild to severe hearing loss. So I wanted to share a little bit about what people in Memphis are dealing with when it comes to COVID-19 and hearing loss. Are you seeing this also?

Things Sound Muffled

It comes as no surprise that masks muffle speech, especially if they have multiple layers. Sound is made up of waves that travel through and around things. So if something is blocking the waves’ way, it changes how the waves sound once they reach the ear.

As a result, the sound seems quieter even though the person is speaking at a normal level. And things sound more slurred together because of the way waves are moving through the fabric and bouncing off each other.

If you’re finding yourself asking the lady at the drive-through window to repeat herself more often, this could be what’s happening. There is a connection between protections against COVID-19 and increased awareness of lessened hearing.

Inability to Read Lips

Many people didn’t realize they were reading lips until the masks went up. Often people who start to develop mild to moderate hearing loss teach themselves to read lips as a way to supplement what they hear. And they may not even realize they’re doing it until something blocks the lips.

Lipreading is very common among people who work in the local entertainment industry (musicians, bouncers, bartenders, sporting events security, etc.) and in construction / manufacturing because they’ve become accustomed to working around so much noise.

Many people with noisy jobs are realizing for the first time how significant their hearing loss is as a result of the COVID-19 safety measures. Additionally, those who have profound deafness from an early age are often fully dependent on lipreading when they are around people who do not know sign language.

Growing Frustration

Many of us are already on edge when we go out, so the combination of COVID-19 and hearing loss is taking frustration up a notch. It doesn’t feel good to misunderstand people or need to ask them to repeat themselves.

But what I’d really like you to know is that many of us are dealing with hearing loss and COVID-19 masks troubles right now. Your hearing loss doesn’t have to be severe to experience problems.

Do This If You’re Struggling to Hear During the COVID-19 Pandemic

We may need the masks for some time to continue to flatten the curve, so getting mad at the masks isn’t the answer. Here’s what I’d suggest.

Accept that a lot of people are struggling more with their hearing loss due to COVID-19 masks. Let’s try to be patient with each other and ourselves. You’re not alone.

If you’re worried about COVID-19 masks and hearing loss, you can certainly get a hearing screening. It’s always better to know where your hearing currently stands. COVID-19 has brought to light the fact that for many of us, our hearing isn’t as good as it used to be. I encourage you to take this opportunity to schedule an appointment to learn more about your hearing.