The most common reason for muffled hearing is conductive hearing loss that can be caused by a variety of factors or medical conditions. In most cases, however, it is treatable and does not lead to permanent hearing damage. In order for the latter not to happen, the exact reason for the hearing loss should be determined and proper measures taken so that further or permanent damage is avoided.
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 seem too quiet or certain frequencies may not be heard 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.
Common causes for muffled hearing:
Earwax compaction - The secretion of earwax from the ear is a natural process and helps for protection from dust and small particles that may damage the sensitive internal ear parts. Accumulation of earwax however may cause it to harden and thus block the passageway of the sound waves and prevent them from being properly processed. It is advisable to clean the ear regularly with a special earwax removal kit, solution for softening 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 as they may push the earwax deeper and worsen the condition or even perforate the eardrum.
Otitis Media - Infection of the middle ear or otitis media can also damage hearing. Also known as glue ear, this condition presents with a collection of fluid in the middle ear that blocks the sounds transmission 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 on its own, however, it is always best to seek professional help and follow the instructions of your physician.
Ear infections - There are various types of additional ear infections that can manifest as a swelling of the ear canal (swimmer’s ear) or be caused by colds or flu. Inflammation of the ear canal may swell the passage to the inner ear and thus 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. If the condition is serious, the use of antibiotics may be required.
Eardrum perforation - Damage to the eardrum may also be responsible for muffled hearing. It usually occurs after trauma or due to earwax compaction. Treatment should be determined by a specialist and can include surgery or antibiotics.
Abnormal growths - Growth in the ear such as a tumour, tissue 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 a treatment with medicines prescribed by a healthcare professional.