6 Reasons Why Your Hearing May Sound Blocked
Do you sometimes feel like cotton wool is stuck in your ears, preventing you from hearing things properly? There is likely a good reason.
Muffled hearing can come about gradually or suddenly, depending on the underlying problem, and can happen in one or both ears.
There are many reasons why your hearing may sound muffled or blocked, and we will examine them and discuss how to manage them in today’s article.
Common Reasons for Muffled or Blocked Hearing
A common reason for muffled or blocked hearing is that your ears are blocked with wax. This issue generally occurs as wax builds up and does not always occur in both ears.
To check whether this is your issue, it’s best to see an Audiologist qualified to remove wax or book an appointment with your GP. Many doctors don’t like cleaning ears and will refer you to an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist.
Do not use cotton tips to remove the wax yourself. You are more likely to push the wax further onto your eardrum.
After the wax has been removed, your hearing should no longer sound muffled or blocked.
2. Outer ear infection
A second reason you may be experiencing muffled or blocked hearing is an outer ear infection referred to as otitis externa.
Otitis externa is an infection seen from the outer part of the ear canal and often seen on the eardrum. This infection is frequently caused by water left in the ear canal after swimming and showering. Due to the warm environment in the ear canal, this is the perfect breeding ground for infection.
In addition to muffled hearing, other symptoms can include pain, itchiness and a white substance resembling yoghurt in the ear canal. If this occurs, you need to see your GP for further medical treatment. After the infection has cleared, you should notice that your muffled hearing is resolved.
3. Blocked eustachian tube
As an adult, after a cold or flu, you can be left with muffled or blocked hearing due to a blocked eustachian tube.
The eustachian tube connects the middle ear to the back of the nose and throat. It is normally closed and only opens when someone chews, swallows or yawns.
The function of the eustachian tube is to help stop infections from getting into the middle ear, keep the air pressure equal in both the middle and outer ear and help drain fluid from the middle ear.
When you have experienced a cold or flu, sometimes the eustachian tube doesn’t open or close normally. When this occurs, it is common to experience muffled or blocked hearing in the ear. In addition, you may also feel some pain and ringing in the ear. If you experience these symptoms, visit your GP for further medical treatment.
4. Middle ear infection
If a blocked eustachian tube doesn’t clear, fluid can build up, leading to a middle ear infection, also known as otitis media, another reason your hearing may be muffled or blocked.
A person can often experience conductive (temporary) hearing loss when a middle ear infection occurs.
Middle ear infections are of concern in young children because if the fluid doesn’t resolve, it can lead to ongoing hearing difficulties affecting speech and language development. Therefore, it’s important to get your children’s hearing checked.
In adults, unresolved middle ear infections sometimes lead to more severe infections in the mastoid – the bony part of your skull surrounding the middle ear.
5. Sensorineural hearing loss
Another reason you might have muffled or blocked hearing is high frequency sensorineural (permanent) hearing loss.
Generally, this issue occurs gradually over time. While engaging in conversation, you may start to notice that they are difficult to understand as voices sound muffled. In this case, it’s important to organise a full hearing assessment with an Audiologist to determine whether you have a permanent hearing loss.
Depending on your hearing loss, hearing aids may be of assistance and help make speech clearer. It’s important to note that if you experience a sudden change in your hearing for fewer than three days, you should immediately see your GP and Audiologist. The sooner you seek medical attention; the more likely your hearing will return.
6. Meniere’s disease
Meniere’s disease is another reason for muffled and blocked hearing. There are additional symptoms, including vertigo and tinnitus in the affected ears.
Suppose you experience muffled hearing, a blocked sensation and tinnitus in your ears, as well as vertigo and dizziness. In that case, you must see your GP for further medical treatment and specialist referral. You should also see your local Audiologist to rule out any middle ear issues and determine the type and degree of your hearing loss.
In A Nutshell
Muffled hearing and blocked ears are symptoms that can result from different issues in the hearing pathway.
As we have discussed in this article, some of these issues can be treated easily, while others are more serious and require further medical advice and treatment.
It’s also best to book an appointment with your Audiologist to learn more about your hearing and if you have a hearing loss. If you have done this and have been diagnosed with hearing loss, we offer a range of quality and affordable hearing aids.