Ear Feels Clogged and Muffled? Muffled Hearing Explained – Causes and Treatment

What is Muffled Hearing?

Muffled hearing refers to when your hearing is impaired and sounds don’t come through as expected. It often feels like something is in your ear, blocking the sound from coming through. Muffled hearing can occur in either one ear or both, and can also develop over time or instantly. It can affect anyone, at any age.

The treatment of muffled hearing very much depends on what is causing it. Muffled hearing can be the result of a variety of factors, all of which will require a different approach for treating it.

The best course of action is to visit a hearing specialist and sign up for a hearing assessment. This will highlight what is the root cause of any hearing impairment and ensure you can get treatment that will solve your particular hearing problems.

Potential Causes of Muffled Hearing

  1. Earwax/Blockage

The compaction of earwax in the ear canal is a common cause for what feels like muffled hearing. The earwax creates a barrier that makes it much harder for sound waves to pass from the outer ear, to the inner ear. This results in a slight impairment of hearing. The more wax that is present, the more likely it could create hearing impairment.

Earwax plays an important role in the sensory system and helps prevent bacteria/dust from getting into the ear. Everyone needs earwax, however, excessive levels which harden are likely to lead to a feeling of blocked ears and muffled hearing.

It isn’t just earwax that can create a blockage – other materials/debris could get into the ear and create this.

If earwax or other debris is the underlying cause for your muffled hearing, then it is likely to be temporary and something that can be rectified with a variety of earwax removal solutions. Depending of the level of the blockage, a hearing specialist can recommend the best course of action.

  1. Otitis Externa/Ear Infection

Otitis Externa is the inflammation of the ear. This is a result of bacterial growth and leads to muffled hearing, ear pain and sometimes a discharge of liquid from the ear.

It is caused when bacteria gets into the ear and causes an infection

Otitis Externa is often referred to as Swimmer’s Ear as it is a common infection that swimmers are vulnerable to. This is because water remains in the ear, creating a moist environment, that aids bacterial growth. This leads to infections in the ear that is likely to impair hearing.

A perforated eardrum or damage to any part of the inner ear, is also likely to impact hearing. Depending on the severity, this may require surgery.

  1. Other Infections/Illnesses

The common cold, flu, viruses, and other illnesses can often result is muffled hearing. This is due to inflammation in the ear canal that swells and makes the ear feel blocked and muffled.

The hearing system is sensitive and as the body fights bacteria and illnesses, hearing can be temporarily impaired.

  1. Pressure Imbalance

Hearing impairment due to pressure, often referred to as airplane ear, is a common cause for temporary hearing discomfort. Ear pressure balance can be affected by flights, diving as well as infections and colds.

This type of muffled hearing usually disappears after swallowing/yawning, however, in severe cases can actually damage the ear drum. Deep sea diving without equalising properly can be a common cause for damaged hearing.

  1.  Meniere’s Disease

One of the symptoms of Meniere’s Disease is a feeling of clogged/stuffy ears. Meniere’s Disease is caused by a build-up of fluid but there is no definitive answer into why some people get the disease. There are links between Meniere’s Disease and constrictions in blood vessels similar to what migraine suffers get, while others think it is linked to allergies.

Meniere’s Disease is usually associated with feeling dizzy and ringing in the ears too. If any of these symptoms are present, it is best to consult a doctor right away.

  1. Hearing Loss

Asymmetric hearing loss is where your hearing is worse in one ear than the other. This often results in people noticing the difference in hearing between their ears and describe the worse ear as feeling blocked or muffled.

Sensorineural hearing loss can also make hearing feel blocked, full or muffled. This requires specialist treatment and management, which is why the treatment for muffled hearing depends so much on the cause.

Treatment for Muffled Hearing

Treatment for muffled hearing will very much depend on the cause. Therefore, visiting a hearing specialist to get a professional diagnosis is the first thing anyone with muffled hearing should do.

If something like earwax is the cause for your muffled hearing, there are a variety of simple home solutions, such as ear drops, that will soften the wax and help remove it. Within a few days, your hearing is likely to be back to normal. If it is severe, the hearing specialist may use tools and equipment to remove the earwax.

A hearing test will ensure your muffled hearing isn’t actually a result of sensorineural hearing loss. Muffled hearing may just be one symptom that points to a much more serious condition. This type of hearing impairment is actually a result of hearing loss and treatment such as hearing aids are likely to be required to solve such issues.

Conductive Hearing Loss refers to when something is blocking canals and passages associated with hearing. This can be relatively simple to treat and the effects of muffled earing can be reversed. Sensorineural Hearing Loss is more serious and refers to the damage of the hair cells in the ear. This is often permanent and requires management as opposed to treatment. Hearing aids are usually the recommended way to manage this type of hearing loss.

For help getting started with hearing assessment and the best treatment specifically for you, get in touch with our friendly team today. We can help support and guide you to ensure you have the knowledge and products that will help improve the quality of your hearing in day-to-day life.

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