With nearly everyone donning a face mask, you may be starting to notice something interesting: it’s difficult to understand what everyone is saying.

Don’t worry! You’re not going crazy. And, chances are, your hearing isn’t any worse than it was before everyone wore a mask. You’re probably just noticing some hearing loss.

Over 60 million Americans suffer from hearing loss. But it usually doesn’t happen all-at-once. We gradually lose our hearing. So, it can be challenging to find that perfect moment where you realize your problem.

In pre-pandemic life, your brain could read lips, see gestures, and recognize subtle facial movements to fill in those hearing gaps.

Now that masks are muffling speech and hiding mouths, its incredibly difficult for many people who are hard of hearing to understand people. This global mandate has created a barrier for the hard of hearing.

Chances are, masks aren’t going away soon. The CDC, WHO, and virtually every local health department is highly recommending them during this pandemic. Many businesses are even requiring shoppers to wear them (e.g., Costco, Starbucks, etc.)

So why are masks making it so difficult for some of us to communicate? And what can you do about it?

Why Do Masks Make it So Difficult to Understand Each Other?

Whether you have diagnosed hearing loss or you’re just starting to notice how bad your hearing loss is, you may be wondering why cloth masks make it so much more difficult for us to understand one another. Here are some of the biggest reasons:

  • Face masks muffle speech: Researchers found that masks of all shapes and sizes acoustically muffle speech when worn. They found voice degradation across mask types.
  • You can’t see facial movements: Believe it or not, almost everyone uses facial cues to contextualize speech. For those that are hard of hearing, it goes beyond contextualization. They use it to understand what people are saying. Visual speech perception is a significant component of speech understanding for those with hearing issues. Masks hide all of those visual cues.
  • You can’t read lips: Most people who are hard of hearing learn to read lips to some extent. You may not even notice that you use lip-reading to fill in the blanks during communication sessions. Now that everyone has a mask not being able to read lips is impairing those with hearing issues.
  • Social distancing guidelines reduce sound: It’s not only masks. The 6-foot rule makes it harder to hear people. Sound waves have to travel further, reducing their quality and volume.

Do You Have Undiagnosed Hearing Loss?

Are you noticing that it’s more difficult to understand people during this mask-wearing era? Have you been asking people to repeat themselves more often? You may be one of the millions of people with undiagnosed hearing loss.

Don’t sit on it! Recognizing the issue is half of the battle.



See a professional and diagnose your issue. The sooner you catch it, the more promptly you can correct it. Left alone, hearing loss can get significantly worse year-over-year.

Despite the chaos of today’s world, communication is still a valuable tool. Don’t let hearing loss impact your ability to communicate with your friends, family, and loved ones effectively.

Contact our friendly team to arrange an appointment convenient for you. Our office is currently following a strict safety protocol for all in-person appointments, so rest assured you will be in safe hands when you visit us at Preferred Hearing.

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Mark D. Johnson, HAS, BC-HIS, A.C.A.

Mark began his career in the hearing healthcare field in 1993 with a major hearing aid/care provider. He opened his own practice in 1994 in Orlando, Fl.  In 1995, he became board-certified, and through continued training received his A.C.A. credentialing as a certified audioprosthologist in 1997. He has conducted many hearing educational workshops, both for professionals and for the general public, and trained many individuals in the hearing healthcare field.