WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF)– After two years of masks, kids are failing speech and hearing screenings left and right and even adults are noticing a decline in their abilities.  

More and more patients are coming in from children up through adults, saying I just didn’t realize I wasn’t hearing as well until I started wearing a mask.

Dr. Brandon Lichtman, Director of Audiology Center for Excellence, WVU Medicine Wheeling Hospital 

They are meant to protect us but could they possibly hurt you in the long run? 

For most people masks have come off but the side effects from wearing them for so long are impacting countless people’s lives. 

For news updates follow Ashley on Twitter and Facebook.

Is this due to not being able to see our faces in public and school and the evaluation in general, or is it just would they have had this delay even without the mask?

Molly Fisher, Speech Therapist, WVU Medicine Wheeling Hospital 

A recent study done in 2021 shows that 52% of children ages 3 to 5 who were tested failed their speech-language assessments and 40% failed their hearing screenings

The numbers have nearly doubled since mask mandates were put into effect.  

Dr. Brandon Litchman says speech and hearing go hand and hand.  

It’s one thing to see someone speak to you, it’s another whole different ending to process sound…These paper surgical masks, N95 masks, the cloth masks, research has actually shown that they degrade speech sounds anywhere from 4 decibels to 10 decimals in the high frequencies

Dr. Brandon Lichtman, Director of Audiology Center for Excellence, WVU Medicine Wheeling Hospital 

He says not only are they unable to see the person speaking it but they are losing a significant amount of intensity of sound required to make it.

Now that we have these masks now, we’re not even certain, is it the masks that are creating the problem or do they really have auditory processing delay because we’re noticing now that we’re just not hearing as well as we used to.

These masks are really making it hard to hear all the frequency sounds across the speech spectrum.

Dr. Brandon Lichtman, Director of Audiology Center for Excellence, WVU Medicine Wheeling Hospital 

Speech Therapist Molly Fisher says parents and physicians are concerned this is impacting early childhood development.   

In language development, the most important years are from that birth up to age 3. That’s when they’re growing the most language development, especially expressive, but also receptive language development.

They are understanding our language and that’s those core years that that language is going to develop, and we want to them to develop on track before they get delayed.

So, we’ll use just a clear face mask so they can see our mouth moving. And how are the mouth is moved to form those certain sounds that they’re working on.

Molly Fisher, Speech Therapist, WVU Medicine Wheeling Hospital 

Fisher says it has been challenging but they are making progress.  

Experts say annual speaking and hearing evaluations are critical so if you notice that something is off, make sure to give your doctor a call.