Diminished hearing ability can have several causes. While it can sometimes be a sign of hearing loss, there are other causes that can be easily addressed.
Muffled hearing, the sensation like you are listening to conversations through cotton wool, can occur over time or instantly. It can happen in one or both ears, but it might not just be a sign of hearing loss.
In most cases it is treatable and doesn’t lead to permanent hearing loss. It is important to address the issue early, though, or you can risk more serious effects.
Here are five reasons you may have muffled hearing.
1. Compacted earwax
Earwax protects the inner ear from harmful substances such as dust, dirt and small particles. However, if too much earwax starts to build up in the ear canal, it can harden and block the passage of soundwaves, leading to muffled hearing. Do not use a cotton bud to attempt cleaning your ears as this can be dangerous, could lead to further earwax compaction and you can puncture an eardrum. If you want to try and remove earwax from your ear, your first port of call should be your local pharmacist. There are many solutions available that will soften the earwax inside your ear and aid the natural flow back out of your ear canal.
2. Eardrum perforation
Damage to the eardrum can be a cause of muffled hearing. This can be caused by allowing compacted earwax to go untreated or by a traumatic event such as poking around inside your ear. If this is the cause of your muffled hearing, you will require specialist treatment and it may require a surgical fix.
3. Ear infections
Colds or flu can lead to ear infections that cause a swelling of the ear canal, commonly known as swimmer’s ear. An inflamed ear canal may swell the passage to the inner ear and lead to muffled hearing. Some viruses can also provoke ear infections and affect the middle ear and its proper conduction of sounds. If the condition is serious, the use of antibiotics may be required.
4. Abnormal growths
A growth in the ear such as a tumour, tissue build-up or fluid growth can lead to narrowing of the ear canal and cause problems with hearing. A specialist may advise removal of the growth or it may be able to be treated with medicines.
5. Otitis Media
Unlike regular ear infection, Otitis Media, is an infection of the middle ear and can cause further damage. It is sometimes referred to as ‘glue ear’ and causes a collection of fluid in the middle ear, which can block sound transmission to the inner ear. The level of hearing loss with this condition can depend on the consistency and density of the fluid trapped in the middle ear. This condition can sometimes clear up by itself, but if your muffled hearing persists it is best to have it looked at by a specialist.
In all situations, if you think you are suffering from muffled hearing it is best to get the situation checked out by your local GP, or book a free hearing check with Australian Hearing.