Cant hear in one ear

What’s Causing My Muffled Hearing and Clogged Ears, and How Do I Treat It?

Muffled hearing in one ear can be a symptom of many conditions. Common causes include:

Earwax buildup

Earwax prevents dirt and debris from entering the ear canal, and it also acts as a lubricant for ears. Sometimes, however, it can build up and become impacted in one or both ears. An earwax blockage can be minor, but a severe buildup can lead to muffled hearing.

Other symptoms of an earwax buildup include an earache, extreme pressure, and ringing in the ear.


This refers to gradual age-related hearing loss of high-pitched sounds. A person with this type of muffled hearing may have difficulty hearing a phone ring. Hearing loss can range from mild to severe.

Other symptoms include trouble hearing when there’s background noise, ringing in the ear, and difficulty hearing a woman’s voice.

Middle ear infection

These bacterial or viral infections occur when fluid accumulates in the middle ear due to swelling or inflammation in the eustachian tube. This tube helps the ears drain fluid from the middle ear.

Some middle ear infections are mild and clear on their own. But others can lead to impaired hearing if left untreated. Middle ear infections can cause ear pain and ear drainage. Signs of an ear infection in children also include pulling at the ear, crying more than usual, fever, and loss of appetite.

Sinus infection (sinusitis)

A sinus infection is when cavities around the nasal passage become inflamed and swollen. Sinus drainage due to an infection can trigger ear congestion and muffled hearing. Other symptoms include a headache, coughing, bad breath, fever, and fatigue. Mild cases of sinusitis don’t need a doctor.

Common cold

A common cold can also cause muffled hearing due to congestion blocking the Eustachian tube. Colds are usually harmless, with a clogged ear improving once congestion does. Other symptoms of a common cold include a runny nose, coughing, body aches, a low-grade fever, and sore throat.

Hay fever

Symptoms of hay fever (allergic rhinitis) can mimic those of a cold and sinus infection. Allergies can also cause ear congestion, triggering mild muffled hearing. Additional symptoms of hay fever include watery, itchy eyes, sneezing, coughing, postnasal drip, and fatigue.

Airplane ear

Airplane ear occurs when there’s an imbalance of the air pressure in the middle ear, and the air pressure in the surrounding environment. This can happen in an airplane, an elevator, or while driving up a tall mountain.

You may have ear pain, vertigo, and bleeding from the ear with airplane ear. This condition isn’t usually serious, but it can lead to chronic ringing in the ear or hearing loss.

Noise damage

Noise-induced hearing loss (acoustic trauma) occurs when there’s damage to the auditory nerve. Hearing loss may be mild or severe, as well as temporary or permanent. Damage can occur after one-time exposure to loud noise, or after repeated exposure.


Tinnitus (ringing, buzzing, humming, or clicking sound in the ear) can also cause muffled hearing. These sounds can be temporary or permanent, and occurs when sensory hair cells in the inner ear become damaged.

This can happen with age or due to prolonged exposure to loud noise. Sometimes, the cause of tinnitus is unknown. Tinnitus can be barely noticeable, or loud enough to interfere with concentration or sleep.

Ear blockage

Earwax isn’t the only cause of an ear blockage. A foreign object in the ear canal can also cause muffled hearing. This might include water, an insect, or any small object, which is more common for young children.

A foreign object in the ear is serious and requires medical attention to avoid injury to the ear. These types of blockages can cause pain, a feeling of fullness in the ears, and hearing loss.

Certain medications

Some medications can have a harmful effect on nerve cells in the inner ear. These include:

  • loop diuretics
  • antibiotics
  • chemotherapy drugs
  • anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen

Hearing loss ranges from mild to severe. Other symptoms of medicine-induced hearing loss include vertigo, tinnitus, and fullness in the ear.

Eardrum perforation

Also known as a ruptured eardrum, an eardrum perforation is another cause of muffled hearing. This is when a hole or tear forms in the tissue separating the middle ear from the ear canal.

A ruptured eardrum isn’t usually an emergency and heals on its own. Other symptoms include ear pain, bloody drainage from the ear, ringing in the ear, vertigo, and nausea.


Muffled hearing may also be a sign of a tumor. An acoustic neuroma is a benign growth that forms on the main nerve that leads from the inner ear to the brain. Other signs include loss of balance, vertigo, facial numbness, and ringing in the ear.

A lump on the neck can be a sign of nasopharyngeal cancer. This type of cancer develops in the upper part of the throat and can cause muffled hearing, ringing in the ear, and ear pain.

Meniere’s disease

This disease of the inner ear causes a variety of symptoms, including muffled hearing, tinnitus, vertigo, and pain in the ear.

The cause of Meniere’s disease is unknown, but it may be associated with abnormal fluid in the inner ear. There’s no cure for this condition, but symptoms may improve or disappear with time.

Brain injury or head trauma

A serious brain injury or head trauma can damage bones in the middle ear or nerves in the inner ear. This can happen after a fall or blow to the head. Other symptoms of a head injury include headaches, dizziness, and loss of consciousness.

I woke up this morning and can’t hear out of my right ear. What should I do?

Answer: In many cases, the cause of a sudden change in hearing is easily found and addressed, such as hearing loss caused by excessive wax or an ear infection. Even allergies or illness can affect your hearing. However, something more serious may be going on.

Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL) is an unexplained sudden or rapid decrease in hearing. SSNHL generally affects only one ear. While some people will recover part or all of their hearing over time on their own, the chances of recovering your hearing increases with timely treatment by an ENT, or Ear, Nose, and Throat physician.

Another possible cause is the use of ototoxic drugs, which are medications that are toxic to the ear. Head trauma can result in a decrease in hearing as well. Blood circulation problems and diseases, such as Meniere’s disease, can also rapidly change your hearing. In some cases, a change in your hearing could be a symptom of another underlying issue, so additional testing may be recommended by your physician.

A sudden change in hearing can be a frightening experience, and it warrants a phone call to your family physician. Though it may be due to something as easily remedied as too much wax in your ear canal, when it comes to your hearing, it is better to err of the side of caution and treat a sudden change as an emergency.


  • Quieter things are more ideal. Find the quietest product by checking the noise rating of the appliances. If it’s difficult to hear your friends at dinner, don’t be hesitant to ask the manager to turn the music down.
  • Treatment For High-Frequency Hearing Loss

    Currently, the most reliable method for dealing with high-frequency hearing loss is hearing aids. And because this is the most common type of hearing loss, there are numerous different models a person can pick from. Hearing aids can boost high-pitched sounds so they are crisper to the user. Several models are configurable and your hearing care expert can help fine-tune them to improve your ability to hear those sounds at the right level, directly addressing the level and degree of the hearing loss. For circumstances like talking on the phone, listening to children, having dinner at a restaurant, or business meetings many hearing aids can be manipulated by your phone and have directional microphones for fine-tuning.

    If you think that you may be dealing with high-frequency hearing loss, make an appointment for a hearing test. If you want to better your ability to hear your grandchild’s precious one-liner, chances are there are personally tailored solutions for you.

    What to do if you can’t hear the caller or they can’t hear you

    Start by examining your phone equipment. Damaged phones, worn cords or faulty jacks can cause reception problems. Here are a few common issues you should check.

    • Most phones have adjustable volume controls. If you pick up the receiver and can’t hear anyone talking, check the volume setting and try turning it up. Note: If people at a particular number keep commenting that they can’t hear you, ask them to check their speaker volume.
    • If you have a cordless phone, the batteries might need to be charged. Swap them out with fresh ones and see if that solves the problem.
    • If the problem only seems to happen on one phone, try plugging a different phone into that same jack. Then make a call from the new phone to see if the issue is resolved; if not, there could be a problem with that jack.
    • How many things do you have plugged into your phone jacks? Each line can only support so much. Unplug all your equipment and then plug in each device one by one. When the problem shows up again, you know you’ve reached the maximum load capacity for your phone line.

    I Can’t Hear Any Sound from My Headphones

    Follow these steps if you can’t hear any sound from your headphones after playing audio from a connected source device. If these steps require model-specific information, check your manual. Manuals are posted on your model support page.

    1. Make sure your audio source is on and the volume is up.
    2. If your headphones have a volume button or knob, make sure to turn it up.
    3. If you have battery-powered headphones, make sure there is enough charge.
    4. Check the connection of your headphones.
      • Wired connection:
        1. Make sure the headphone jack is firmly plugged into the correct audio jack.
        2. If the audio source uses a line remote, disconnect the remote and plug directly to the audio source.
          • If you can hear the sound from your headphones, the line remote may require repair.
      • Bluetooth® connection:
        1. Make sure to select your headphones in the Bluetooth settings of your audio source.
        2. Turn your headphones off and on.
        3. Pair your headphones to your audio device again.
    5. Try connecting your headphones to another audio source.
      • If the sound is heard, the first audio source may require repair.
      • If your headphones don’t produce any sound after connecting to a second audio source, your headphones may require repair. Go to Product Repair.

    Sinus Infections Can Cause Loss of Hearing

    Having grown up with that silly children’s song, some of us accepted long ago that somehow “the knee bone is connected to the jaw bone,” but did you know your nose is connected to your ear? More specifically, your nasal sinus cavity links to your eardrum, which occasionally causes hearing loss when suffering from acute or chronic sinusitis. If you or someone you know finds themselves enduring this condition, the best move is to treat sinusitis before it causes permanent damage, especially in children.

    What is Sinusitis?

    Simply put, sinusitis is an infection or inflammation of the sinus cavity, the air pocket tucked behind the bones of your nose and between your eyes. The two kinds of sinusitis, acute and chronic, share similar symptoms: runny nose, tension headaches, postnasal drip, coughing, and congestion. The difference lies in the longevity of their course. Chronic, by definition, refers to a lasting condition, whereas acute implies immediate and short-term discomfort fewer than eight weeks.

    Though people with acute sinusitis may experience temporary bouts of hearing loss, the ability to hear usually restores itself once the infection clears. Chronic sinusitis, on the other hand, may turn temporary hearing loss into a permanent condition when complicated by an accompanying ear infection.

    Why the Hearing Loss?

    Hearing loss in sinusitis occurs when the sinus infection spreads to the ear, especially the middle ear. Pressure from the infection causes fluid to build up in the sinus cavities, spilling over into the Eustachian tube. As the Eustachian tube swells, fluids block the middle ear and build up pressure in the eardrum, causing pain and loss of hearing.

    In acute sinusitis, hearing generally returns after the fluid exits the eardrum, but for young children still growing and developing, some of the fluid may remain in the ear, causing long-term hearing loss.

    What Do I Do?

    To dispel the deafness, you first have to treat the sinus infection itself. With help from your physician, you can knock out the bacterial infection using antibiotics, antihistamines, and decongestants. The hearing should work itself out after that.

    For the best sinusitis treatment in OKC, Yukon, Norman, or Edmond, call Oklahoma Otolaryngology Associates today. Our OKC ENT doctors apply their decades of experience with ear treatment in Oklahoma to ensure you a speedy recovery.

    How to treat temporary hearing loss

    Temporary hearing loss can affect anyone, but it’s most likely to impact people who have been exposed to recent loud noises or have a bad cold and ear infection. Most of the time, the hearing loss will go away quickly (in a day or two). If it doesn’t, you should seek medical care.

    Is it one ear or both ears?

    If the hearing loss is in just one ear, it could be sudden single-sided deafness, which in many cases requires quick medical treatment before it becomes permanent. Do not try to treat one-sided hearing loss at home. If it’s in both ears, you’re more likely to recover your hearing, since the causes of sudden hearing loss in both ears are usually temporary.

    Temporary hearing loss treatment
    depends on the underlying cause.

    If you were exposed to loud sounds

    Extremely loud noises—like the kind found at the front-row of a concert, or at the shooting range (with no ear protection)—can cause temporary hearing loss. This is known as noise-induced hearing loss. If this sounds like what has happened to you, rest your ears as soon as you can. Do not expose yourself to more loud sounds if at all possible.

    While your hearing will likely recover in the short-term, you may have caused some long-term damage to the delicate hair cells in your ears. If your hearing doesn’t get better within a day or so, seek medical help.

    And don’t forget that the next time you find yourself in a loud setting, you must protect your hearing from further damage by wearing ear protection. If you know you’ll be attending a loud concert or fireworks display, wear earplugs or earmuffs. If your hobbies include using loud equipment such as motorcycles, snowmobiles or firearms, wear protective hearing gear.

    If you have blocked ear canals

    If your hearing loss is the result of blockage in your ear canal, your hearing may return to normal once the blockage is removed. Types of blockages include:

    • Earwax – Believe it or not, earwax is a good thing–most of the time. Its job is to trap dust and other small particles before they reach the eardrum. As a general rule, earwax falls out of your ear canal naturally. In the case of excessive earwax that becomes impacted, it’s best to let a professional remove it.
    • Earinfection – Although most inflammation from ear infections clear by themselves and hearing eventually returns to normal, see your physician if you are experiencing any pain or discharge from your blocked ear, or if your earache is accompanied by a high fever, stiff neck, or bad headache.
    • Swimmer’s ear – If you’ve recently been swimming and are experiencing itching, pain or a feeling of fullness in your ears, you may have a case of swimmer’s ear. This infection in your outer ear canal usually occurs when water remains in your ear after you’ve been swimming. It can also be caused by scratches or abrasions in your ear canal caused by using cotton swabs, hairpins or your finger to clean your ear canal. When this condition is properly treated by a medical professional, your hearing typically returns to normal.

    Diagnosing temporary hearing loss

    Sometimes the cause of temporary hearing loss is obvious and goes away on its own. In other cases, the hearing loss may be more complicated. If your hearing loss lingers beyond a day or so, the first thing you need to do is make an appointment to see your doctor or hearing healthcare professional. They will give you a thorough hearing evaluation to determine the cause of your hearing loss.

    At the evaluation, your provider will ask you several questions concerning your current health status and hearing problems. This will help them determine whether there is anything in your past that suggests an ongoing health issue.

    Afterward, he or she will examine your ears for any signs of abnormalities before giving you a hearing test to narrow down the nature of your condition. Some conditions may require advanced testing, so you may need to schedule a follow-up appointment or visit an otolaryngologist (ENT).

    Causes of temporary hearing loss

    There are many things that can cause temporary hearing loss, including noise-induced hearing loss, clogged ear canals and even medications. For example, aspirin taken at high doses for long periods can cause hearing loss.

    If you need a hearing care provider

    Since so many different issues can lead to temporary hearing loss, it’s important for you to find out what’s causing it and get the underlying condition treated. Not all temporary hearing loss can be corrected; however, the only way to know for sure if your loss is reversible is to contact a hearing center near you.

    Why Can’t I Hear Out of One Ear?

    Waking up one day and suddenly realizing you can’t hear clearly out of one ear can be a frightening and confusing experience. You most likely are wondering why it’s happening and how serious of a problem it could potentially be. Hearing loss in one ear, called unilateral hearing loss, occurs when one ear is experiencing hearing loss but the other can hear normally. Sometimes it’s temporary and can be easily treated to restore your normal hearing, and other times the loss could be permanent. Below we’ve listed 3 of the more common hearing issues that could be the reason behind your hearing loss, as well as their potential causes.

    “I woke up and I can’t hear out of one ear.”

    Any sudden loss of your hearing warrants a trip to your doctor or audiologist, but there may be a common cause behind it.

    Reasons Why You Can’t Hear Out of One Ear


    Earwax, also known as cerumen, helps protect your ears from infection, irritation, and damage. The normal daily movement of your jaw helps move the wax from inside your ear to the outside. When you clean the inside of your ear canal with a cotton swab instead of letting the ears natural self-cleaning process happen, a wax buildup can occur. This, in turn, can lead to an impaction in the ear canal that makes it hard for you to hear with the affected ear. Try applying a few drops of mineral oil, hydrogen peroxide, or glycerin to the ear to soften the wax and clear it out. If that doesn’t improve it, make sure to see your healthcare provider. Other symptoms that can occur from excess earwax or impaction are:

    • Discharge
    • Pain
    • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
    • Odor
    • Itchiness
    • A feeling of fullness in the ear

    Age-Related Hearing Loss

    “My wife’s voice is muffled.”

    If soft tones and voices like those of your spouse or grandchildren sound muffled, you may be developing age-related hearing loss. The most common type of sensorineural hearing loss, age related hearing loss (also called presbycusis) is caused by the natural aging of the auditory system. It tends to occur gradually over time, and initially affects the ability to hear higher pitched sounds. Some of the symptoms of age-related hearing loss are:

    • Men’s voices are easier to hear than women’s and/or children’s
    • Difficulty distinguishing high pitched sounds, such as the difference between “th” and “s”
    • Some sounds may actually seem too loud and irritating
    • Background noise makes conversations difficult to understand
    • The presence of Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) in one or both ears

    Airplane Ear

    ‘I am unable to hear out of one ear on airplanes.”

    Airplane Ear, also called barotrauma, is the stress on your eardrum that occurs when the air pressure in your middle ear and the air pressure in the environment are out of balance. As the name suggests, you can experience it when you’re flying, but you also can from sinus allergies, ear infections, and even a simple cold. Some of the symptoms may include:

    • A feeling of fullness or stuffiness in your ears
    • Muffled hearing of slight to moderate hearing loss in one or both ears
    • Moderate pain and discomfort in one or both ears
    • A spinning sensation (also called vertigo)
    • In severe cases, bleeding from the ear

    You can help avoid the uncomfortable condition a few different ways:

    • Try using filtered earplugs, which slowly equalize the pressure against your eardrum during the ascents and descents of your flight. You will still need to yawn and swallow to relive pressure though.
    • Use something called the Valsalva maneuver during the takeoff and landing. Gently blow, like when you are blowing your nose in a tissue, while pinching your nostrils and keeping your mouth closed. You should do this several times, especially during takeoff and landing, to equalize the pressure between your ears and he cabin.
    • Repeatedly yawn and swallow during altitude changes. This helps activate the muscles that open your eustachian tubes. Chewing gum or sucking on candy may help you to keep swallowing.
    • If you have congestion from a cold, use an over the counter nasal spray about 30 minutes before takeoff and landing.
    • If you have allergies, remember to take your medication about an hour or so before your flight.

    We at Otofonix care about you and your health, especially when you suddenly can’t hear from one ear. While we love keeping you informed, it’s important to make an appointment with your healthcare provider or audiologist if you notice new or worsening symptoms.

    The Otofonix Solution

    For more information on the very best FDA-approved over the counter hearing aids available on the market, get in touch with us now for answers to all your questions, or to start shopping for your new hearing aid today. To learn more about the difference between traditional prescription hearing aids and OTC hearing aids, check out this post.

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    UnderstandingSudden HearingLoss

    Shortly after experiencing sudden hearing loss, your doctor will want to focus on reducing some risk factors – such as obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and diabetes. You’ll also need to take steps to ensure the reduction of stress in your personal life. If your sudden hearing loss began more than a year ago, the only option left is to alleviate it with the help of hearing aids.

    However, the earlier you start treatment, the better the prognosis. In a best-case scenario, you would see an ENT doctor within the first 24 hours and get help right away. Treatment for sudden hearing loss involves stimulation of inner ear circulation and the elimination of possible triggers. Other forms of treatment include:

    Circulation-enhancing (rheological) medication
    In the event of sudden hearing loss, the inner ear’s blood circulation is reduced or impaired. Blood supplies the inner ear with required nutrients, and if circulation is inhibited, the sensory hair cells of the ear are permanently damaged. Circulation can be improved with circulation-enhancing medication, which can also include cortisone to prevent any swelling (anti-edema treatment).

    Local anesthesia to block inhibited nerves
    Local anesthetics like procaine and lidocaine are frequently used by a medical professional to treat sudden hearing loss. These anesthetics block nerves that potentially lead to vascular constriction.

    Hearing aids
    Sudden hearing loss causes permanent damage to cells in your ears, which could potentially lead to permanent hearing loss. Hearing loss that is combined with tinnitus should be treated with hearing aids that generate a soft noise to distract the individual experiencing tinnitus symptoms. This function is referred to as a ‘noiser’ and is ideal for very quiet hearing environments.

    For particularly severe cases
    Dialysis (apheresis) is performed if the sudden hearing loss is particularly severe because during dialysis, the blood is cleansed of coagulation-promoting substances. This drastically improves blood flow and circulation, which helps alleviate sudden hearing loss.

    In the event of obesity and/or diabetes
    Treating arteriosclerosis (the build-up of fats, cholesterol, and other substances in and on artery walls) is extremely important. Lifestyle changes are also necessary to treat sudden hearing loss, including: weight loss (a low-fat diet and exercise), adjustment of blood sugar levels, as well as avoiding nicotine, coffee, and alcohol. These lifestyle changes are imperative for effective treatment.

    I can hear, just not clearly. Do I have hearing loss?

    What’s the number one complaint hearing care professionals hear from their new patients with hearing loss? Ask them and they’ll likely say it’s, “I can hear, but I can’t understand.” If this is what you’re experiencing, you may have hearing loss.

    Hearing loss involves not only the ears, but also the brain where sound is translated into meaningful words. Symptoms that vary between people. Hearing loss comes in all degrees from mild to profound. But most people, especially older adults, have mild-to-moderate hearing loss, especially the type that makes it harder to hear high-pitched sounds. In this case, the only symptom may be difficulty with word understanding, especially in situations where there is competing noise.

    Hearing vs. understanding

    When your hearing is tested, the results are plotted on an audiogram. People with high-frequency hearing loss are said to have a “sloping” hearing loss. If you have a sloping hearing loss, it means you are able to hear low-pitched sounds, (sounds below 1000 Hz), sometimes even as clearly as someone with normal hearing. But, high-pitched sounds (sounds above 1000 Hz) need to be much louder before you can hear them.

    While not always the case, high-frequency hearing loss is often the cause of feeling like you can hear but can’t understand.

    Did you say parrot or ferret?

    In speech, the vowel sounds (A, E, I, O and U) are low in pitch while consonant sounds like S, F, Th, Sh, V, K, P and others are high in pitch. Being able to hear vowel sounds is helpful and will alert you that speech is present, but it’s the consonant sounds that give speech meaning and help you distinguish one word from another. Without being able to hear subtle differences between consonants, words like “cat” and “hat,” “parrot” and “ferret” and “show” and “throw” can be hard to differentiate. This is why so many people with high-frequency hearing losses brought about by natural aging (presbycusis) or excessive noise exposure have difficulty understanding even when they know sound is present.

    Trouble hearing with background noise

    If you feel like you can hear but not
    understand speech, it may be an early
    sign of hearing loss.

    If you have a high-frequency hearing loss, you may notice problems understanding speech even in a relatively quiet environment, but when background noise is present or several people are talking at once, it can become nearly impossible to follow a conversation. People with hearing loss that has gone untreated for a number of years sometimes begin to avoid lively social situations or public places they once enjoyed because interacting with others is too difficult.

    Signs of high-frequency hearing loss

    When you have a high frequency hearing loss, you may have trouble:

    • following conversations in quiet and noisy places (hear but can’t understand).
    • talking on the phone.
    • understanding your favorite TV shows or movies even when you turn the volume up.
    • understanding female and young children’s voices because they tend to be higher in pitch.
    • enjoying music because it sounds distorted, especially at higher volumes.
    • feeling exhausted from listening

    Family members, friends and work colleagues can get frustrated and feel you aren’t listening to them when they speak to you. Your spouse may accuse you of having “selective hearing.” You may accuse others of mumbling. Sometimes, you will answer questions inappropriately and miss the punch lines of jokes. Other times, you may resort to smiling and nodding when someone speaks to give the impression you are listening when in fact, you do not understand what was just said (see this woman’s story for how that plays out in real life). Untreated hearing loss can take a toll on relationships, careers and your daily life.

    Pass a hearing test but still feel like you can’t hear?

    If you’ve taken a hearing test and were told your hearing is fine, don’t give up trying to get answers just yet. Your ears may be fine—but your auditory nerve or your brain may have problems processing sounds or other sensory input. For example:

    Auditory processing disorders (APD)

    For some people, hearing but not understanding may signal an auditory processing disorder (APD). This means the nervous system—not the ears—struggles to make sense of the sounds coming in from the ears. APD is often diagnosed in children, but it also can be diagnosed in adults.

    Attention deficit disorder (ADD)

    Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also can make it hard to understand—in the sense that the brain can’t quite keep up with all incoming sensory inputs, including and sometimes especially noise. If you have undiagnosed and untreated ADD, you may pass a hearing test just fine, yet feel like you can’t understand people, or struggle to follow conversations.

    In either case, a hearing aid may help a person with APD or ADD focus on the conversation they want to hear most, allowing them to amplify the voice of their preferred speaker (such as a professor). It’s worth noting that some people may have both ADD and an auditory processing disorder.

    Don’t accept difficult hearing

    If your hearing test reveals hearing loss, hearing aids can amplify the high pitches you’ve been missing without amplifying low-pitched sounds. Once you begin wearing hearing aids, you will notice improvement with understanding speech and you may even notice you’re hearing sounds that have long been forgotten. For instance, some new hearing aid wearers are pleasantly surprised to hear the soft chirping of songbirds for the first time in years. You will once again be able to hear that beeping sound your microwave makes, your car’s turn signal and your phone ringing.

    If you can hear, but can’t understand, you’re not alone. This is what hearing care professionals hear almost every day from their patients, and they are highly skilled at getting to the root of the problem, listening to your concerns and finding a solution that meets your needs. Don’t give up on enjoying conversations at work, home and play. Find a hearing center near you with our directory, and make the call today.

    If your hearing loss is starting to affect your everyday activities, talk to your doctor about a hearing aid. And before you balk, consider this: The newest models are so sleek that they’re practically invisible.

    “The latest technology effectively reduces background noise while simultaneously enhancing the ability to hear speech more clearly,” says Ellen Finkelstein, chief audiologist at East Side Audiology in New York. “People can also hear voices that would be completely inaudible otherwise.” For severe hearing loss, you may want to consider cochlear implants. Whereas hearing aids amplify sounds so that damaged ears can detect them, cochlear implants bypass damaged parts and directly stimulate the auditory nerve.

    Red flags: People with kidney or heart disease have a higher than average risk of developing age-related hearing loss. Researchers think that may be because poor kidney function leads to the accumulation of toxins that can damage nerves in the inner ear. And cardiovascular disease can decrease blood flow to the inner ear. “Improving kidney or cardiac function won’t reverse hearing loss, but it can prevent it from worsening,” Okun says. “I recommend getting a formal hearing test if you have either condition.” The reverse may be true, as well; if you have hearing loss, check your kidney and cardiovascular health.

    2. You have a feeling of fullness in your ears.

    Why it happens: Excess mucus from an infection or allergy can block the eustachian tube, the small canal that connects the throat to the middle ear and regulates airflow, particularly when you swallow or yawn. Besides feeling fullness and muffled hearing, you might also experience popping, pain or tinnitus (ringing in the ears), or have difficulty maintaining balance. A buildup of earwax can cause that feeling of fullness, too.

    How to fix it: Most eustachian tube dysfunctions improve when the infection goes away, says otolaryngologist David S. Haynes, Cochlear Implant Program director at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. If not, a doctor can prescribe decongestants and antihistamines to help reduce inflammation. As for earwax, any health care provider can remove it with a suction device, irrigation tool or nasal spray, Haynes says. Don’t try to do it yourself, though, as you can easily damage your eardrum.

    Red flags: Hearing loss with fullness that’s accompanied by significant pain could be otitis externa, or swimmer’s ear, an infection of the ear canal that carries sound to the eardrums. The infection is typically caused by water in the ear, which breaks down the skin and provides a breeding ground for bacteria. Otitis externa is usually treated with ear drops that contain an antibiotic.

    3. Your hearing loss is sudden.

    Why it happens: Swelling or fluid buildup as a result of a virus or ear infection can affect hair cells and nerves, as can taking high doses of certain medications, including aspirin, intravenous antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs and diuretics.

    How to fix it: “If an audiogram shows nerve injury, hearing can be recovered if steroids are given within 72 hours of the onset of hearing loss,” Okun says. Steroids reduce inflammation and prevent swelling of the auditory nerve, which, if left untreated, can cause permanent hearing loss. Loss of hearing because of use of certain drugs — a condition called ototoxicity — requires an immediate change in your medication if possible.

    Red flags: See your physician if you have sudden hearing loss. In rare circumstances, this could be the sign of a tumor pressing on the auditory nerve. Other uncommon causes include syphilis, Lyme disease, autoimmune disorders and thyroid disease.

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