November 17, 2020 | Hortencia Luna-Gonzales, MD, FACEP
Because we rely on our sense of hearing almost as much as we do our vision, it can be scary when your sense of hearing starts to weaken. Whether this diminished ability happens gradually or suddenly, it’s essential that you take the proper course of action to diagnose the cause and get yourself on the right treatment regimen. Keep reading to answer the question “why is my hearing muffled” and get advice on treatment options!
What is Muffled Hearing?
Muffled hearing, or sensorineural hearing loss, is a difficulty hearing that occurs when sound waves have trouble passing through the inner ear. This may happen for any number of reasons, and may or may not require treatment.
Causes and Symptoms of Muffled Hearing
There are many reasons that you may be experiencing muffled hearing. Because muffled hearing is a symptom of many conditions with varying severity, it’s important that you can self-identify a problem and act accordingly.
Here are some common causes of muffled hearing:
Your body naturally produces earwax to lubricate and protect the ear canal, but it can become built up and impacted. In most cases, this can be cleared out at home, but if the blockage is significant, it’s best to see a doctor.
Age-related hearing loss
Many abilities fade as we age, and hearing is one of them. Presbycusis—the gradual age-related hearing loss of high-pitched sound—is one of the most common signs of aging and affects 1 in 3 people over the age of 65. This condition can be caused by certain medications like antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, and high doses of aspirin. It may also be caused by high blood pressure and diabetes. A doctor will usually perform a hearing test to diagnose presbycusis; sufferers may experience difficulty hearing a loud noise. This may be treated with the use of a hearing aid in the affected ear.
Ear infections, both bacterial and viral, occur when fluid accumulates due to inflammation or swelling in the drainage tube (eustachian tube) of the ear.
Allergies or the common cold
Both allergies and the common cold may cause ear congestion, consequently triggering muffled hearing. This should resolve on its own along with the cold or allergy symptoms.
If you’ve ever flown on an airplane, odds are that you have experienced a popping, stuffy feeling during takeoff and landing. This is caused by the change and imbalance of air pressure in the ear. It may also occur when taking an elevator to a top floor in a high-rise building or climbing a mountain. The condition is not typically serious and usually goes away within a few minutes.
This kind of acoustic trauma occurs to the auditory nerve by a loud noise, and ranges from mild and temporary to severe and permanent. The damage may occur after a single incident or through repeated exposure.
There are several substances that may cause an ear blockage besides earwax! Some common culprits are water, insects, or small objects; these types of blockages tend to be more uncomfortable or painful.
This condition occurs when there is a hole or tear that forms in the tissue separating the middle ear from the ear canal.
One of the more serious causes of muffled hearing is a tumor. These growths may be benign or malignant and can form on the nerves leading to the brain, as well as the upper part of the throat, causing muffled hearing, ringing in your ears, and pain.
How Long Does a Muffled Ear Last?
Depending on the cause of your muffled hearing, it might last only a few seconds or minutes. However, some conditions may result in a recurring sense of hearing loss. If you fear that what you are experiencing will not go away on its own, then you should seek medical attention.
Does Muffled Hearing Go Away on Its Own?
In many cases, a muffled ear will go away on its own. This is especially true for conditions like airplane ear, or sickness-related hearing loss. Even certain ear infections will resolve themselves if given time, but there are some instances where you should not wait to seek medical treatment. If you have not experienced relief in several weeks, think you may have a clogged ear from a foreign object, or have bloody drainage from the affected ear, don’t wait to see a medical professional. This may be indicative of a far more serious problem.
Visit Village Emergency Centers Today
At Village Emergency Centers, no concern is too small. We understand that your ears are a sensory organ essential to your day-to-day life, and we want to ensure that they stay healthy for many years to come. If you still find yourself asking the question “why is my hearing muffled” or you have experienced sudden hearing loss, visit us today! We’ll get to the bottom of your difficulty hearing and work out a treatment plan together.
Hortencia Luna-Gonzales, MD, FACEP
Dr. Luna has been practicing Emergency Medicine and Pediatric Emergency Medicine for more than 37 years. She has held multiple Physician leadership positions as the Medical Director for Emergency and Trauma Services for more than 20 hospital systems in both California and Texas.