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What is Muffled Hearing and How to Treat It?

By CaptionCall

Imagine being in the workplace, a restaurant, or a park and everything around you sounds as if your head is in a glass bowl. You can still hear people talking to you, but sounds aren’t as crisp and clear as usual. If that sounds like your experience, you might be suffering from muffled hearing.

Muffled hearing is often the way those with hearing loss describe what they’re experiencing. The two main types of hearing loss in which muffled hearing falls under are conductive and sensorineural.

In addition to not being able to hear clearly, muffled hearing can be painful and feel like there is pressure building within the ear canal. You may also experience a ringing in your ear and potentially discharge resulting from an infection. Muffled hearing is not complete hearing loss, but it indicates a serious issue that should be addressed immediately.

Causes

There are several causes for muffled hearing, and we recommend making an appointment with an audiologist or physician for an official diagnosis if you experience any of these:

Illness/Medication

Illnesses that cause fluid to build up behind the eardrum, like the common cold, seasonal flu, sinus infections, hay fever, and allergies, may cause muffled hearing. The effects aren’t typically long-term, though, since as you recover, your hearing will most likely return to normal. There’s also been reporting that the coronavirus (COVID-19) could potentially lead to hearing loss, although those studies are still preliminary.

People of any age can suffer from Meniere’s disease, which negatively affects the inner ear and can cause hearing loss and vertigo. There’s no cure for Meniere’s disease but treatment can help minimize the impact of those with the disability.

Other conditions that can cause muffled hearing include eardrum perforation (ruptured eardrum) and acoustic neuroma, a non-cancerous tumor that can impact your hearing and balance.

Medications that are designed to treat various illnesses can cause hearing and balance issues, too. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, there are more than 200 of these ototoxic medications with some, like certain cancer chemotherapy drugs, causing permanent damage and others, like pain relievers and loop diuretics, causing temporary damage. The best way to educate yourself about the potential side effects of any medication you take is to talk with your physician.

Anatomy of the Ear

Blockage

Muffled hearing can sometimes feel like you have cotton balls in your ears and, while that hopefully isn’t the case, you could have another kind of blockage.

Ear wax, also known as cerumen, probably isn’t your favorite thing to talk about, but its antibacterial properties are essential to your hearing health. Unfortunately, too much ear wax can build up and lead to muffled hearing. According to the Cleveland Clinic, other symptoms of having an excess of ear wax include dizziness, ringing (tinnitus), discharge, strong smell, pain, and itchiness.

The go-to solution for far too many is to use a small cotton swab to remove the ear wax, but that just pushes it deeper into the ear and could lead to more serious issues.

Environment

Your day-to-day activities and environment can impact your ability to hear clearly. Prolonged exposure to loud noises, such as working on a construction site, is proven to negatively affect your hearing, as will sharp bursts of sound like gunfire or explosions. The best way to avoid damaging your hearing is to always wear ear protection when in these environments.

Construction Noise Pollution

Altitude can also play a role. Whether you’re hiking up a mountain or flying in an airplane, the change in pressure outside can cause you to lose your balance and experience varying degrees of hearing loss, albeit temporarily in most cases.

Eustachian tube dysfunction can be a symptom of altitude (and the common cold) and could lead to muffled hearing. The Eustachian tube is what connects your throat to the middle ear and prevents pressure and fluids from building up. Those with Eustachian tube dysfunction may have to take a decongestant to alleviate the blockage and return their hearing to normal.

Trauma

Any time you have trauma to the head or brain, like a concussion from a car accident, you run the risk of damaging the small bones and nerves that comprise your central auditory system. Those who suffer from this kind of trauma can also experience dizziness and a ringing in their ear, amongst other very serious symptoms. If you have any kind of head trauma, see a doctor or go to the hospital immediately for an evaluation.

Old Age

Father time is undefeated and one of the effects of growing old is hearing loss, or presbycusis. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, one in three people in the United States between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss, and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing.

Treatment

Treatment for your muffled hearing will depend on the cause, but in general, visiting an audiologist is the best way to start down the path to recovery.

If you have an excess of ear wax, an audiologist can remove the blockage safely. If you have a cold or sinus infection, they can prescribe you a decongestant. If the issue is more serious, like a ruptured eardrum or acoustic neuroma, they can discuss the potential for surgery. If you’re worried that the medication you’ve been prescribed could cause hearing loss, talk to your audiologist (or the doctor who wrote the prescription) to get all the information so that you know what side effects to look out for.

Tech Solutions

You can also be proactive in avoiding muffled hearing. There is technology available that will monitor your environment and alert you when the sound level reaches a certain noise threshold that you set. If you use headphones to listen to music, you can set limits to how loud the audio can go to avoid damaging your hearing.

Hearing Aids and CaptionCall

CaptionCall

If old age is causing your muffled hearing, hearing aids can be a game-changer. Technology is improving at an astonishing rate to bring you the highest quality hearing aids possible. The most important thing about hearing aids, is that you are taking care of your hearing loss and, that alone, can help you ward off the negative side effects of hearing loss, such as depression, anxiety, and social isolation.

CaptionCall is another solution that can help those who are eligible. Our no-cost service is for those with hearing loss who need captioning to use the phone effectively. If you’re eligible to sign up for CaptionCall service, you’ll receive our red-carpet delivery and installation. A CaptionCall representative will deliver your phone and install it in your home at no charge. You’ll also receive training on how to use the phone’s features and if you ever have questions about the service, our Customer Support Team is ready to help at no additional cost.

For when you’re on the go, CaptionCall Mobile is here to keep you connected. Download today from the Apple App Store (Coming soon to Android) and never miss an important phone call again.