We are currently having to live in a world where masks are mandatory and it is part of our everyday life. There are many times where we struggle to hear and understand each other through a mask. Do not feel alone if you are having a hard time understanding someone wearing a mask as masks make it difficult to hear. We have found that even with mild hearing loss there is a significant decrease in the ability to understand someone with a mask on. Because we all tend to use facial cues to help us understand speech sounds that we may not be able to hear. Therefore, masks make it difficult to hear.

Masks and communication

We want to explain to you why masks make it difficult to hear and how easy it can be to not hear and understand simple words in conversations. Let’s take the word “cat” as an example. This is made up of a vowel and two consonants. The “a” is a low pitch sound, which is easier for most people to hear. However, the “c” and “t” not so much! This is a result that if you can’t hear the “c” and the “t” we rely on facial cues. We do not even realise that our brains are piecing together all the information until someone looks away from us while talking or has a mask on! Do you start to see now why masks make it difficult to hear?

Common hearing loss

One of the most common types of hearing loss is called a high-frequency hearing loss. This means a person can hear low frequencies fine. However, just because you have normal hearing in the low frequencies doesn’t exclude you from having a high-frequency hearing loss.

Another common problem you will have if you encounter someone with a mask on and why masks make it difficult to hear is that they will sound like they are mumbling. We have found that this is a common complaint for people with high-frequency hearing loss because they hear the low frequencies in speech much better than the high-pitched ones. And this is the exact reason why everyone sounds like they mumble!

Tools to help you better understand someone with a mask on

If you couldn’t hear what the person said to you, ask them to rephrase their sentence rather than to repeat it. Therefore, the chances are better that you might grasp that instead of them having to repeat it over and over.

Ask for the information in writing

We all know that wearing a mask is now mandatory to our own safety, but it can become very challenging if your hearing is not perfect. For example, most physicians provide you with a script of some sorts after your visit. However, scripts or written information is not common and is very frustrating for hearing impairment individuals. A good idea if you do not understand the person wearing a mask is to ask them to follow up with a telephone call or email.


We suggest that if you cannot hear the other person, repeat back to them what you think they said if you might have misheard them. The person will tell you whether you are correct or not. And hopefully you can then retake your conversation.

Let Us Help You Communicate

Since COVID started we have implemented the necessary sanitising protocols to keep our clients as safe as possible when they visit us for a consultation. We are ready to see you! Contact us today so you can reconnect with your loved ones.

About Strauss Audiology
Strauss Audiology is a professional audiology business in the northern suburbs of Cape Town, offering expert, effective hearing advice that is tailored to clients’ unique hearing needs. We conduct hearing evaluations, hearing tests and vertigo assessments, and provide a range of solutions to improve and protect clients’ hearing. This includes providing hearing aids to Cape Town clients. With 16 years of experience, and with the qualifications and certifications to deliver leading hearing care, you can trust us to take care of your hearing needs.

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