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

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, ear infection and loud noise. You may also be suffering from clogged ear. In most cases, it is very treatable and doesn't lead to permanent hearing damage.

By analysing your medical history and present condition, 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 or have a feeling of fullness in the ears. Usually, the cause lies in an obstruction in the ear passage, such as an abnormal growth or a collection of fluid or earwax.

1. Earwax impaction

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. 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.

How to get rid of Earwax?

We have a number of cleaning products to help with earwax removal including:

Audiclean Cleansing Ear Wash : Used to gently rinse ear wax from the ear. This is great when combined with the Audispray Adult, a combination of products designed to remove a build up of earwax and then help you keep your ear canal free of troublesome wax.

AudiSpray Adult : AudiSpray works by gradually thinning and dissolving earwax to gently remove excess wax, dust, dirt, preventing blocked ears 

Earpal Earwax Remover : Earpal is the safe way to remove earwax from your ears as it can never touch or perforate the eardrum by accident.

Earol Olive Oil Spray : Place a single metered dose of olive oil into the outer ear canal to soften and remove earwax.

Oftentimes people associate ear blockage with earwax. Now, it's worth noting that ear wax is not the sole cause of ear blockage. When the ear canal is obstructed by a foreign object, hearing can become muffled. Everything from water to small insects can cause ear blockage. A blockage of this kind could result in ear pain and cause a feeling of fullness in your ears. If left untreated, this can lead to hearing loss. If you notice any sudden hearing loss or muffled sounds that you can't shake off over the days, make sure to see a doctor right away.


2. Otitis Media

Infection of the middle ear or Otitis Media can also cause muffled hearing and damage the ear further. This condition presents a collection of fluid in the middle ear that blocks the transmission of sound to the inner ear. Fluid accumulates in the middle ear due to swelling or inflammation of one's eustachian tube. A proper functioning eustachian tube is central to draining the fluid in the middle ear area. Middle ear infections can give you ear pain and lead to impaired hearing if left untreated. 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.

Since the eustachian tube is shorter and more horizontal in small children than in older children and adults, it lets microorganisms enter the middle ear a lot easier, leading to ear infection (Otis Media). As a result, infants and small children are at greater risk of contracting middle ear infection than adults. Most people with middle ear infection are diagnosed and treated by either healthcare providers or ENT specialists.  

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. 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 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.


6. Can Noise Damage Cause Muffled Hearing In ears?  

Noise-induced hearing loss has become a part and parcel of modern day life. 

According to studies published in HSE, in Great Britain there’s an estimated number of 17,000 workers with work-related hearing problems. When you're constantly exposed to loud sounds, over time you may develop acoustic trauma. It's not just noise pollution and the unwanted sounds that you should be wary of. For instance, a loud heavy metal music concert can be just as detrimental to your inner ear as any other types of loud sounds. A temporary threshold shift (TTS) is a common side effect of sound exposure. For example, it can be experienced after attending a super loud rock concert. A common symptom is ringing in the ears which usually goes away on its own after hours or several days. If damage to your inner ears is more severe and ringing in the ear persists for a longer period of time, you may be suffering from a permanent threshold shift, which requires immediate medical attention. 

 Here are 5 ways to steer clear of noise-induced hearing loss and take proper care of your ears.

7. Airplane Ear Can Give You Hearing Trouble

Airplane ear is also a cause of muffled hearing which if left untreated can result in moderate to severe hearing trouble. Airplane ear is the condition where an individual's eardrum is put under great stress due to the imbalance in the air pressure between their ears and atmosphere. Airplane Ears are caused by sudden shifts from low levels of altitude such as those experienced when a plane climbs up after take off or descends during landing. It's also common whenever you fly at high altitudes and atmospheric changes cause fluctuations in the pressure inside your ear. If you’re experiencing any discomfort, fullness or muffled hearing for longer than a few days and it persists with severe signs or symptoms then please consult your doctor immediately. 

Airplane Ear prevention tips

To avoid ear-ringing on flights, you should yawn and swallow during take off and landing. Yawns work by activating muscles around your eustachian tubes. Chewing gum or sucking on candy could also help. Make sure to stay awake during the take off and landing. If you stay awake during ascents and descends, there are certain techniques that can be done to manage increasing pressure in your ears. If you have allergies, it's best to take your medication about an hour before taking off. Put on a pair of filtered earplugs and take your time climbing up or descending. The filtering will slowly equalize the pressure against your eardrum, nevertheless make sure to continue yawning and swallowing to ease the pressure. If you're prone to nasal congestion, use a nasal spray before takeoff and landing.


Does Muffled Hearing Go Away on its Own? 

As is often the case with various ear problems, most muffled ears will get better and go away on their own within a few days. However, there are certain instances where you should seek medical treatment immediately. If you’re experiencing ear-related discomfort and have not seen relief in several weeks, or feeling that there's foreign object causing the blockage, or seeing bloody drainage from the ear, then your condition will require medical assistance. 


How Can Hearing Direct Help?

We supply a number of valuable products to help maintain healthy ears. This includes the selection of ear hygiene products highlighted above.

Our collection of amplified products may also 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, a super loud phone can prevent you from missing out on key snippets of conversations or the call completely. For those with visual impairments, large button phones offer an easy to use and clear alternative for communicating.

Further Information

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We think you may find the following blog posts of interest:

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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