Unexpected Benefit of Masking

While many people have grumbled about masking during the pandemic, there has been an unexpected benefit: Finally recognizing and dealing with hearing loss.

Several studies have reported on the decrease in sound caused by masks. Add other factors like background noise and the lack of visual cues, and it is not surprising that it can be difficult to hear.

“You lose sound at around 2000 Hz, which is important for understanding speech,” said Catherine Palmer, PhD, Director of the Center for Audiology and Hearing Aids. “The face shields take out even more sound because of the plastic and the mask underneath.”

People with normal hearing still do ok, Dr. Palmer said. But people who were already struggling with their hearing were essentially “pushed over the edge” in terms of needing to move forward in pursuing assistance with their hearing.

As a result, UPMC has seen a large uptake in hearing aid purchases from people who probably would have waited a few more years prior to pursuing amplification because of masking, according to Dr. Palmer.

“We are using more simple amplifiers in the clinic to assist people with hearing because of masks and speech to text transcription (on Android tablets) to assist as well,” she said.

To make an appointment with the UPMC Center for Audiology and Hearing Aids, call 412-647-2100.