Audiologist finds mask wearing has lead to more detection of hearing loss

Published: Sep. 14, 2020 at 4:48 PM CDT
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OSHKOSH, Wis. (WBAY) - Masks can distort a person’s voice and make it harder to understand one another. But being unable to understand people with masks on can also be a sign of hearing loss.

“Not only do masks cover up our visual cues, but it’s also bringing down the level of our voice,” said Doctor of Audiology Katie Armatoski.

That decrease in volume can make communication difficult for people with hearing loss.

“What research has actually shown us is people’s voices are brought down about 12 decibels which can be almost unintelligible for someone who has hearing loss,” said Armatoski.

Which is why Armatoski believes she’s been seeing new patients at the Audiology and Hearing Aid Center in Oshkosh since the pandemic started.

“Hearing loss happens so gradually over time that you don’t even realize you have hearing loss,” said Armatoski. “So that’s why a lot of people are coming in with mask-related issues. Saying that ‘I don’t know why, but all of a sudden when I’m around somebody who’s wearing a mask I’m having a hard time understanding.’”

She says hearing loss has been connected to diabetes, osteoporosis, and even cognitive decline.

“Mild hearing loss, if you have it and don’t treat it, you’re two times more likely to suffer from dementia in the long run,” said Aramtoski.

Plus, with the pandemic causing a number of stresses on people, hearing loss can create more anxiety.

“All of these things add up and then when you add hearing loss on top of it that is almost like a snowball effect,” said Armatoski.

Aramtoski finds people will often use outside factors, like masks, as an excuse for why they can’t hear.

“The only way to really rule that in or out, if it is you or if it is the mask, is to just get your hearing tested so you know,” said Armatoski.

She says most insurance companies will cover at least one hearing evaluation. It will help determine if you have hearing loss, and if so, to what extent and how to proceed.

“There’s a lot of communication strategies that we counsel to our patients. There’s a lot of things they can do at home,” said Armatoski. “So there are a lot of different paths one can take to hear better that doesn’t necessarily always require a hearing aid.”

She encourages anyone who’s struggling to understand people to find someone they trust to get that basic hearing test done.

“It’s a simple, quick appointment,” said Armatoski. “Take your hearing health seriously.”

Copyright 2020 WBAY. All rights reserved.

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