You’re on an interview via Zoom and trying to put your best foot forward so you’re already a little nervous. The interviewer asks you a question, but their audio keeps dipping out randomly. “Hi! It’s ni-[unintelligible] meet [unintelligible] -re you?”
You smile and nod, not entirely sure what they said at first until you realize, due to context, that they are asking how you are.
The smile, nod, and generic responses while trying to mentally catch up is masking. This kind of masking works well for short periods of time when there are plenty of context clues and the content isn’t crucial. The longer it goes on, the more prone it is to breaking down.
Later, they begin giving some prerequisite information for a scenario they want you to work through, but this time their audio drops out entirely, part way through the explanation.
Now, it’s no longer possible to mask because there is crucial information missing. You try to ask the interviewer to repeat the question, but it turns out the audio issue is on your end and now they can’t hear you either, only that you’re trying to speak. They are trying to let you know they can’t hear you, but of course you can’t hear them.
This brief moment of confusion as you finally realize what’s happening and the panicked attempts to fix the audio issue is what it’s like to have verbal difficulties and audio processing disorder.