People frequently arrive in our offices with complaints of muffled hearing. They describe this as feeling as if their ears are filled with cotton and realize that they can’t hear things as clearly as they used to. Muffled hearing can have several causes and a variety of associated solutions.
Ear Wax May Be The Culprit
The first thing we do in our audiology offices is examine the person’s ear canals. So often the cause is wax! Ear wax can build up suddenly, and we find this to especially be the case in the humid summer months. If you think you have ear wax build up, do not try to get the wax out by yourself with any utensil such as a q-tip. The audiologist, hearing specialist or ear, nose and throat doctor can remove it easily with an ear wash.
Pressure From Sinuses
We also examine the movement of the ear drums using a tympanometry machine. A normally functioning ear drum moves in response to sound and pressure. If a person has abnormal pressure in the middle ear space, the ear drum will be retracted, or pulled back. This gives a person a feeling that they want to "pop" their ears or yawn to clear the muffled sensation. An ear, nose and throat physician will often recommend some type of over the counter or prescription nasal spray to open up the sinus passages and relieve the pressure.
When there are reports of muffled hearing, a full audiological test, or hearing test, is often conducted. Very frequently with muffled hearing, the ear canals are clear and the ear drums are functioning normally. It can be hard for someone to come to terms with the fact that their muffled hearing is due to simple permanent hearing loss. People often say, "but it just feels like I have cotton in my ears!" Hearing loss can feel differently to different people. The most common type of hearing loss is in the high frequencies. In this case, people may hear the vowel sounds well, but miss the clarity of the consonant sounds. The result is that things sound stuffy and muffled. In the case of sensorineural hearing loss, the only solution is to wear hearing aids to accommodate for the hearing loss.
The first step when experiencing muffled hearing loss is to schedule an appointment with an ear, nose and throat physician. At our audiology and hearing aid offices, we work closely with the ENT doctors. We will likely do a full hearing test as a part of that visit to investigate the hearing pathway from ear canals to hearing organ and pinpoint the origin of the symptom.
At Advanced Specialty Care, our audiologists will work with you, through diagnostic testing and conversations, to determine what your hearing abilities are. Our goal is to find the best solutions to make your hearing and communication the best it can be. To take the first step and schedule a hearing exam, call (203) 830-4700 today. Our audiology and hearing aid offices are located in Fairfield County, CT in Danbury, New Milford, Norwalk and Ridgefield.
- Jocelyn Dore, Au. D.