Muffled Hearing: Causes and Remedies

Woman in pain for tinnitus, sound and noise problem. Healthcare, pressure and hearing loss with girl suffering with muffled hearing.

Muffled hearing can happen for lots of reasons. In most instances, this situation is temporary. But muffled hearing can also be a sign that a more severe hearing problem is taking place. That’s because, for the most part, hearing loss is a gradually progressing condition. Symptoms develop slowly and over time.

One of the earliest symptoms of slowly progressing long-term hearing loss is the sense that your hearing is muffled. However, it’s important to mention that muffled hearing in and of itself is not always an indication of permanent hearing loss. Each year millions of individuals experience muffled hearing.

You might be wondering: when do I need to be worried about muffled hearing? The answer depends on various factors. Recognizing the root cause of your muffled hearing is critical to finding the right treatment strategy. Timely solutions can sometimes help get your hearing back to normal, or, at least reduce possible damage. Calling us for a consultation can help you begin this process, typically leading to successful treatments, so you can keep enjoying the sounds of your day-to-day life.

What is muffled hearing?

Muffled hearing happens when sound is not able to travel through your outer, middle, and inner ear in the way that it normally does. This results in a noticeable drop in sound quality. Hearing won’t be entirely gone with muffled hearing but things will sound garbled and quieter. This may particularly impact your ability to discern and understand voices and spoken language.

In many cases, and depending on the underlying cause, muffled hearing can be combined with a sense of fullness or stuffiness in your ears. Lots of individuals have experienced this feeling for a short time, for instance, when they have a cold or are taking a flight. Muffled hearing isn’t always combined with this feeling, however.

Causes of muffled hearing

Muffled hearing can be caused by all kinds of problems. In order to develop the appropriate course of treatment, it’s important to establish the root cause. Some of the most common causes of muffled hearing include the following:

  • Hearing loss associated with age: As you get older, your hearing can diminish due to natural causes. After all, there are few senses as sharp when you are 80 as they were when you are 18. This normal diminishing in your ability to hear can cause muffled hearing over time.
  • Travel: The changing altitude related to air travel can often cause a feeling of fullness in the ear, followed closely by muffled hearing. Your hearing will go back to normal fairly quickly once your physical conditions return to normal.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss: Sometimes, muffled hearing can be the result of noise-related hearing loss. This type of hearing loss is, regrettably, normally irreversible. Muffled hearing is frequently one of the first detectable symptoms; but damage to your stereocilia has likely already occurred by the time you notice the distorted sounds. If you don’t seek out treatment quickly, your hearing will rapidly get worse.
  • Infection: Swelling of the ear canal will frequently come with problems like ear infections or sinus infections. This inflammation can cause your ear canal to swell shut, effectively reducing your ability to hear. Muffled hearing symptoms brought on by infections will typically clear up after the root illness has been dealt with.
  • Earwax buildup: Normally, earwax is a good thing. It helps keep your ear canal healthy. However, excessive earwax can eventually cause muffled hearing (or even loss of hearing). This earwax can typically be loosened up by utilizing a few drops of hydrogen peroxide. Do not use a cotton swab to try to dislodge the earwax, as cotton swabs can condense your earwax and make the issue worse. We can help if the problem persists.
  • Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a long-term balance and hearing problem. Over time, this disease can trigger tinnitus, loss of hearing (frequently beginning with muffled hearing), and dizziness or loss of balance. There is no cure for Meniere’s Disease, but symptoms can be treated.

The exact symptoms of muffled hearing will differ depending on the base cause.

Is there a cure for muffled hearing?

Some forms of muffled hearing can’t be cured. The treatment for your muffled hearing will change depending on the base cause. For instance, if excessive earwax buildup is the primary cause, we might use specific tools to help you clean out your ear canal. Antibiotics are typically prescribed if your muffled hearing is being caused by an infection.

When it comes to sensorineural hearing loss, the focus changes to symptom management rather than a total cure. That’s because there’s no cure for sensorineural hearing loss. However, symptoms can be managed. This might take a number of forms, but the most prevalent is the use of a set of hearing aids so that you can bring clarity to what you hear.

Hearing aids can help you stay connected to loved ones and tackle your day-to-day activities without a significantly noticeable effect, particularly when this process is initiated promptly.

How to steer clear of muffled hearing in the first place

No matter what you do, some forms of muffled hearing can’t be prevented. For example, ear infections and sinus infections are hard to reliably avoid.

However, in most cases, regular hearing tests can help you avoid many of the causes of muffled hearing and identify any permanent hearing loss early. These checkups can help you stay on top of your hearing health and get treatment promptly.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

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