Muffled noises can sound and feel as though there are cotton balls in your ears. It's a similar feeling to the pressure that is felt when reaching a high altitude while flying in an airplane. There isn't a total inability to hear, but you may struggle to hear clearly.
The phenomenon of muffled hearing develops when sound waves have difficulty transferring through the inner ear. Different circumstances can cause an obstruction in the ear. Some cases are insignificant and can be resolved immediately, but other instances need immediate medical attention in order to prevent further hearing loss.
Signs of muffled hearing
Experiencing muffled hearing is not only identified by the sensation of having cotton balls in your ears. Here are some other symptoms:
Causes of muffled hearing in one ear
The symptom of muffled hearing can be caused by multiple conditions. Some of these include:
Buildup of earwax
Earwax stops dirt and debris from getting into the ear canal. It's also a natural lubricant for the ears. Occasionally, earwax can build up and be impacted in one or both ears. Earwax that builds up and obstructs the ear canal can be a small problem, but excessive buildup can cause muffled hearing.
Other problems that may arise due to earwax build-up include earaches, too much pressure, and tinnitus.
This type of hearing loss is caused by aging and those who experience it are unable to hear high-pitched sounds. Those who suffer from this type of hearing loss may have difficulty hearing a phone ring.
Other signs of presbycusis include difficulty hearing while there is background noise, tinnitus, and struggling to hear women or small children's voices.
Middle ear infection
Bacterial or viral infections develop when fluid builds up in the middle ear due to swelling or inflammation in the eustachian tube. This tube siphons the liquid from the middle ear.
There are some middle ear infections that are moderate and tend to clear out on their own. Other middle ear infections may cause pain in your ears, ear drainage, or hearing loss if left untreated.
Symptoms of an ear infection in children include tugging at the ear, crying more than usual, a loss of appetite, and fever.
The common cold may induce muffled hearing from congestion blocking the Eustachian tube. Colds are generally innocuous. A clogged ear will clear up as soon as the congestion clears up.
Symptoms of hay fever are similar to symptoms of cold and sinus infections. Allergies can cause congestion in the ear, which can trigger a mild muffled hearing.
Airplane ear is caused by an imbalance of air pressure in the middle ear, and the air pressure in your surroundings. This tends to occur in an airplane, elevator, or while going up a tall mountain.
You may experience ear pain, bleeding from the affected ear, or vertigo. Normally, this is not considered a serious condition, but it can lead to persistent tinnitus or hearing loss.
Noise-induced hearing loss
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) occurs when there is damage to your auditory nerve. You may experience mild, severe, temporary, or permanent hearing loss. It only takes a one-time, brief exposure to loud noise to cause NIHL, or repeated exposure thereafter.
Blockage in the ear
In addition to earwax, any foreign object in the ear canal can cause muffled hearing. This could include an insect, water, or any small object. This is a common culprit for children.
If there is a foreign object obstructing your ear, seek immediate medical attention to avoid further damage to the ear. These types of blockage may cause pain, feelings of fullness in the ears, and hearing loss.
Some types of medication can adversely affect the nerve cells in your inner ears. These include:
Anti-inflammatory drugs (aspirin and ibuprofen)
Other symptoms of medically induced hearing loss include fullness in the ear, tinnitus, and vertigo.
A perforated eardrum is also known as a ruptured eardrum. This is also another cause of muffled hearing. It happens when a hole or tear forms in the tissue, which separates the middle ear from the ear canal.
A ruptured eardrum normally doesn't require urgent attention and can heal on its own. Other symptoms may include:
If you are experiencing hearing muffled sounds, it could be a sign of a tumor. Acoustic neuroma is a benign growth that forms on the main nerve that leads from the inner ear to the brain. Other signs are losing your balance, facial numbness, tinnitus, or vertigo.
A lump on your neck can be a symptom of nasopharyngeal cancer. This type of cancer grows in the upper part of your throat and may cause muffled hearing, tinnitus, and pain in your ear.
This disease occurs in the inner ear. Symptoms include muffled hearing, pain in the ear, tinnitus, vertigo.
It is not known as to what causes Meniere's disease. Some speculate that it could be linked to abnormal fluid in the inner ear. There's no cure for it, but symptoms might improve or go away with time.
Brain injury or trauma to the head
Serious injury to the brain or head trauma can damage bones in the middle ear or nerves located in the inner ear. This can occur due to a serious fall or impact to the head.
Treating muffled hearing
Remove anything that is blocking your hearing.
If earwax is obstructing your ear canals, you may use an earwax removal kit which will soften and flush out the wax.
Do not use a Q-Tip. That could push whatever is obstructing your ear further into your ear.
In some instances, the muffled hearing won't improve. This might happen with Meniere's disease, age-related hearing loss, NIHL, or hearing loss caused by trauma or medication.
If your hearing loss is permanent, hearing aids may help to amplify sounds.
Pure Sound will only be open by appointment and for essential visits at this time. Essential visits include all appointments that require repairs, re-fittings and new hearing aid fittings.