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Muffled Hearing: What is it and how do I treat it?

5 reasons you may have muffled hearing list of section headings
Muffled Hearing feels like you have “cotton in your ears” but what are the most common causes of a blocked ear? Depending on the reason for muffled hearing, the effect can happen over time or instantly. It can also occur in one ear or both ears. Read on for more information on the cause of muffled hearing, and what you can do about it.

What is "Muffled Hearing"?

The most common reason for muffled hearing is conductive hearing loss. A variety of factors or medical conditions can cause this, including a build-up of earwax and ear infections. You may also be suffering from clogged ear. In most cases, it is very treatable and doesn't lead to permanent hearing damage. An expert can determine the exact reason for the hearing loss and take sufficient measures to avoid further or permanent hearing damage. In the case of sensorineural hearing loss, we advise that you consult an audiologist.

Why does my Ear feel Clogged and Muffled?

There are several widespread reasons for the occurrence of diminished hearing ability that is often perceived as muffled or unclear. In some cases, the sound may appear too quiet or the affected person may not hear certain frequencies at all. Usually, the cause lies in an obstruction in the ear passage, such as an abnormal growth or a collection of fluid or earwax (see our post 'Tips for unblocking your ears'). 

1. Earwax compaction

The secretion of earwax is a natural process. It helps protect the sensitive internal parts of the ear from damage caused by dust and small particles. Accumulation of earwax may cause it to harden and block the passageway of the sound waves. This will prevent them from being properly processed, even causing a blocked ear. It is advisable to clean the ear regularly with a special earwax removal kit. These kits contain a solution for softening the wax and letting it flow out or consult with a specialist. It is not recommended to use cotton buds or insert any objects in the ear. They may push the earwax deeper and worsen the condition or even perforate the eardrum.
    For more information our blog post on How to Clean your Ears may help.

    2. Otitis Media

    Infection of the middle ear or Otitis Media can also cause muffled hearing and damage the ear further. Also known as glue ear, this condition presents a collection of fluid in the middle ear that blocks the transmission of sound to the inner ear. Depending on the consistency and density of the fluid, diminished hearing may vary in severity. In some cases, treatment is not necessary as the ear clears up on its own. However, it is always best to seek professional help and follow the instructions of your medical practitioner.

    3. Ear infections

    There are multiple types of additional ear infections that can manifest and cause a swelling of the ear canal (swimmer’s ear). Colds or flu can also cause this. Inflammation of the ear canal may swell the passage to the inner ear and lead to muffled hearing or blocked up feeling and discomfort. Common viruses can also provoke ear infections and affect the middle ear and its proper conduction of sounds. Serious conditions, may need treatment with antibiotics.

    4. Eardrum perforation

    Damage to the eardrum may also be responsible for muffled hearing. It usually occurs after a trauma or due to earwax compaction. A specialist should determine treatment and can include surgery or antibiotics.

    5. Abnormal growths

    A growth in the ear such as a tumour, tissue build up or fluid growth can lead to narrowing of the ear canal and cause problems with hearing. Removal of the growth may be a solution along with treatment with medicines prescribed by a healthcare professional. If you think you have, or someone you know has muffled hearing, we suggest you contact your local GP or medical professional for a check-up.

    How Can Hearing Direct Help?

    We supply a number of valuable products to help maintain healthy ears. This includes a selection of ear hygiene items. Alternatively, our collection of amplified products may still be of use to you. Our loud alarm clock range is home to one of the loudest alarm clocks in production today, and they're ideal for the hard of hearing and hard to wake alike. Also, amplified phones can prevent you from missing out on key snippets of conversations or the call completely. For those with visual impairments, big button phones offer an easy to use and clear alternative for communicating.

    See Also

    We think you may find the following blog posts interesting too:

    What you need to know about itchy ears

    Why I can't hear out of one ear

    5 Reasons you may have Clogged Ear

    Tips for Unblocking your Ears

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    Author: Joan McKechnie

    Image of Joan McKechnieAfter qualifying as a Speech-Language Pathologist and Audiologist Joan has spent most of her 20 year career in hearing-care related roles. She has a wealth of experience within the hearing aid and hearing rehabilitation fields and has worked in manufacturing environments with two hearing aid companies helping to develop products and roll out new technologies. Joan has been involved with Hearing Direct since its launch and enjoys the online retail environment which seeks to provide easier access to hearing products and accessories. She is HCPC registered. Read Joan's full bio here.
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