The moment you or a loved one notice a change in your hearing health, see your doctor. You may be experiencing a temporary hearing loss that, once detected, can be corrected before it becomes permanent.
Temporary hearing loss may be the result of an obstruction in your ear canal or other heath-related condition. Causes may include:
Ear infection: Sometimes a bad cold can develop into an ear infection. Although this condition is most common in children, it can occur at any age. And while ear infections typically clear up by themselves, it’s always a good idea to see your doctor just in case yours needs to be treated with an antibiotic.
Excessive ear wax: The hair follicles and glands in your inner ear produce cerumen, a substance also known as ear wax. Although this wax usually falls out of your ears naturally or with a gentle washing, it sometimes builds up and blocks the ear canal. When this happens, you may feel a sensation that the ear is plugged, hear “ringing” in your ear (also known as tinnitus), or experience some hearing loss. If the wax can’t be removed by gently cleaning with a warm wash cloth, consult your physician. Trying to remove the wax with sharp objects, such as hair pins or cotton swabs, may push it deeper into your ear canal and perforate your ear drum.
Strenuous exercise: When you exercise beyond your fitness level, you may experience temporary hearing loss. While hearing typically returns to normal in a few hours, see your doctor if the symptoms persist.
High blood pressure: If you’ve been hearing a ringing or buzzing in your ears that won’t go away (tinnitus), it’s wise to see your physician immediately. Sometimes tinnitus is a symptom of another medical condition such as high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease.
Noise induced hearing loss: It’s also common to temporarily lose your hearing or experience tinnitus after you’ve been exposed to loud noise, such as at a rock concert or while operating noisy lawn equipment. While your hearing will most likely return to normal afterward, protect yourself by wearing foam ear plugs or ear muffs the next time you’re in a similar situation. Prolonged exposure to excessive noise is the most common form of sensorineural hearing loss, which is permanent.
Of course, noise-induced hearing loss isn’t the only way to permanently lose your hearing. If we’re lucky, we live long enough to lose our hearing naturally. Some of us are born with hearing loss or have develop it later in life because of genetic or hereditary influences. Still others of us suffer trauma to the head, contract diseases or take drugs and medications that permanently damage our hearing.
Regardless, if you suspect your hearing has changed, see your family doctor or hearing health professional. They can determine whether your hearing loss is temporary or permanent and recommend the best course of treatment.