Muffled Hearing: Causes and Treatment Options

Woman in pain for tinnitus, sound and noise problem. Healthcare, pressure and hearing loss with girl suffering with muffled hearing.

Muffled hearing can present for lots of reasons. In most instances, this situation is temporary. But muffled hearing can also be an indication that a more serious hearing problem is happening. Partly, that’s because, aside from sudden hearing loss, hearing loss is generally not a condition that progresses suddenly. Symptoms build slowly and over time.

In many cases, one of the first noticeable symptoms is a sense that sounds feel muffled, distorted, or quieter. Muffled hearing, however, isn’t always an indication that you are developing permanent hearing loss. Every year millions of individuals experience muffled hearing.

Maybe you’re wondering if you should be worried about your muffled hearing. Generally, the answer tends to vary. Finding the correct treatment for your muffled hearing depends on understanding the underlying cause. Additional damage can be avoided and your hearing can get back to normal with some quick solutions. Contacting us for a consultation can help you start this process, often resulting in successful treatments, so you can continue enjoying the sounds of your day-to-day life.

Muffled Hearing – what exactly is it?

When sound can’t move through your outer, middle, and inner ear in a normal way, your hearing can sound muffled. A rather noticeable decline in sound quality is the result. In most cases, people with muffled hearing can still hear some or even most things, but things sound quieter or jumbled. Discerning speech and language can be particularly challenging.

Your ears will frequently also feel clogged up when your hearing is muffled. Sometimes, when you’re taking a flight or have a cold you may experience this feeling. This plugged feeling, however, doesn’t always come with muffled hearing.

Causes of muffled hearing

There are lots of possible causes of muffled hearing. Identifying the underlying cause of your muffled hearing can be significant in developing a successful treatment plan. Some of the most common causes of muffled hearing include the following:

  • Age-associated hearing loss: Most people will experience decreasing hearing as they age. After all, there are few senses as acute when you are 80 as when you are 18. This normal diminishing in your ability to hear can cause muffled hearing over time.
  • Infection: Swelling of the ear canal will often accompany issues like ear infections or sinus infections. This will diminish your ability to hear by causing the ear canal to swell shut. Muffled hearing symptoms due to infections will typically go away after the root illness has been dealt with.
  • Travel: The changing air pressure associated with air travel can frequently cause a plugged feeling in the ear, followed closely by muffled hearing. Your hearing will go back to normal fairly quickly once your physical conditions return to normal.
  • Earwax buildup: Usually, earwax is a good thing. The health of your ear canal depends on the production of earwax. But muffled hearing (and in some instances even hearing loss) can be the result of too much earwax. This earwax can typically be loosened up by using a few drops of hydrogen peroxide. Never attempt to free stuck earwax by using a cotton swab which will only push the wax further up into the ear canal. We can help if the problem continues.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss: Hearing loss which results from noise damage can sometimes cause muffled hearing. Regrettably, this form of hearing loss is normally irreversible. One of the first recognizable symptoms is muffled hearing; but damage to your stereocilia has likely already occurred by the time you notice the distorted sounds. You should seek out treatment rapidly to avoid your hearing getting significantly worse quickly.
  • Meniere’s Disease: When you have Menier’s Disease, you suffer from chronic hearing and balance issues. Over time, this disease can trigger tinnitus, loss of hearing (often beginning with muffled hearing), and dizziness or loss of balance. The symptoms of Menier’s disease can be managed but not cured.

Depending on the root cause, the exact symptoms of muffled hearing will differ.

Can muffled hearing be cured?

Not all kinds of muffled hearing can be cured. The treatment for your muffled hearing will change depending on the underlying cause. We might use some special tools to help clean out your ear canal if, for example, earwax buildup is at the root of your muffled hearing. Antibiotics are typically prescribed if your muffled hearing is being caused by an infection.

When it comes to sensorineural hearing loss, the focus changes to symptom management as opposed to a complete cure. That’s because there’s no cure for sensorineural hearing loss. However, symptoms can be managed. This may take several forms, but the most prevalent is the use of a pair of hearing aids so that you can bring clarity to what you hear.

With hearing aids, you can keep enjoying your day-to-day activities without hearing loss effecting your quality of life.

Avoiding muffled hearing

No matter what you do, certain kinds of muffled hearing can’t be avoided. For instance, ear infections and sinus infections are hard to reliably avoid.

Having your hearing examined, however, can help detect any causes of muffled hearing and can help avoid any long-term hearing loss that might be developing. Call us for an appointment right away.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.