Muffled Hearing: Causes and Treatment Options

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

There are a large number of reasons for muffled hearing. For most people, it’s a short-term situation. But muffled hearing can also be an indication that a more serious hearing problem is taking place. In part, that’s because, outside of sudden hearing loss, hearing loss is generally not a condition that develops suddenly. Symptoms progress gradually and over time.

Typically, one of the first detectable symptoms is a sense that sounds feel muffled, distorted, or quieter. Muffled hearing, however, isn’t necessarily a sign that you are developing permanent hearing loss. Indeed, millions of individuals experience muffled hearing every year.

You might be wondering: when should I be concerned about muffled hearing? Generally, the answer tends to vary. Understanding the root cause of your muffled hearing is essential to finding the correct treatment approach. Prompt solutions can in some cases help get your hearing back to normal, or, at least minimize possible harm. 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.

Muffled Hearing – what exactly is it?

When sound can’t move through your outer, middle, and inner ear in a normal way, your hearing can sound muffled. This results in a noticeable drop in sound quality. In the majority of instances, people with muffled hearing can still hear some or even most things, but everything sounds quieter or distorted. This may especially impact your ability to hear and understand voices and spoken language.

In many instances, and depending on the root cause, muffled hearing can be combined with a sense of fullness or stuffiness in your ears. Lots of people 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 associated with this feeling, however.

What causes muffled hearing?

There are lots of possible causes of muffled hearing. In order to develop the suitable course of treatment, it’s important to establish the root cause. Some of the most prevalent causes of muffled hearing include the following:

  • Sensorineural hearing loss: Hearing loss which results from noise-related damage can sometimes bring about muffled hearing. This type of hearing loss is, unfortunately, usually irreversible. Muffled hearing is frequently one of the very first noticeable symptoms; but by the time you notice the distorted sounds, damage to your stereocilia has probably already taken place. If you don’t seek out treatment quickly, your hearing will rapidly get worse.
  • Meniere’s Disease: Meniere’s Disease is a chronic balance and hearing issue. Over time, this disease can trigger tinnitus, loss of hearing (frequently beginning with muffled hearing), and dizziness or loss of balance. The symptoms of Menier’s disease can be managed but not cured.
  • Earwax buildup: Earwax is generally a helpful thing. The health of your ear canal depends on the generation of earwax. However, too much earwax can eventually cause muffled hearing (or even hearing loss). This earwax can typically be loosened up by utilizing a couple of drops of hydrogen peroxide. Never attempt to free stuck earwax with a cotton swab which will only push the wax further up into the ear canal. If the problem lingers, come in and see us.
  • Infection: Sometimes, problems such as infections (such as sinus infections or ear infections) can result in inflammation in the ear canal (this is especially true with ear infections). This swelling can cause your ear canal to be completely blocked, effectively diminishing your ability to hear. Muffled hearing symptoms caused by infections will usually go away once the root illness has been dealt with.
  • Age-associated hearing loss: Most people will experience diminishing hearing as they get older. After all, there are few senses as sharp when you are 80 as when you are 18. Over time, muffled hearing can be the result of this normal diminishing of your hearing.
  • Travel: Altitude changes, like when you’re on a plane, can lead to a feeling of muffled ears. Your hearing will go back to normal rather quickly once your physical conditions return to normal.

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

Is there a cure for muffled hearing?

Not all kinds of muffled hearing have a cure. The treatment for your muffled hearing will change depending on the base cause. For example, if excessive earwax buildup is the primary cause, we may use specific tools to help you clear out your ear canal. Muffled hearing caused by an ear infection will likely clear up once the infection has been addressed, so antibiotics are often prescribed.

Symptom management is generally the strategy when you’re dealing with sensorineural hearing loss rather than a 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 using a set of hearing aids in order to bring clarity to what you hear.

With hearing aids, you can continue to enjoy your day-to-day activities without hearing loss effecting your quality of life.

Avoiding muffled hearing

Some forms of muffled hearing are difficult to avoid, no matter what. For instance, ear infections and sinus infections are difficult to reliably avoid.

Having your hearing examined, however, can help identify any causes of muffled hearing and can help avoid any long-term hearing loss that may be developing. Call us for an appointment right away.

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.