Has this ever happened to you? You get tickets to your favorite group’s rock concert and spend the evening with friends enjoying extremely loud music. After you leave the venue, your ears are ringing and you can’t hear well. Or how about this? You develop a bad cold. The sneezing and coughing are annoying, but one morning you wake up to the realization you can’t hear out of one ear.
You may be experiencing a condition known as temporary hearing loss.
What can cause temporary hearing loss?
There are many things that can cause temporary hearing loss, including:
- Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). The delicate mechanism of your inner ear is extremely sensitive to loud noise – specifically, noise louder than 85 decibels. If you sit too close to the speakers at a concert or don’t wear ear plugs when you shoot firearms, you run the risk of damaging your hearing. This can be temporary or permanent depending upon the level of the noise and the proximity to your ear.
- Clogged ear canal. It stands to reason if there’s something blocking your ear canal, it will hinder your ability to hear. (That’s the point behind ear plugs, right?) If your ears feel stuffy it may be due to excessive ear wax, swelling from an ear infection or fluid in the ear canal.
- Ototoxic medication. Certain medications are toxic to the ear and can cause temporary hearing loss. Make sure to check with your primary care physician and talk to your pharmacist about any concerns you may have regarding medications you are taking.
See your doctor
While you might want to believe your hearing problem is temporary, only a qualified medical professional can make that determination so the first thing you need to do is make an appointment to see your hearing healthcare professional. They will give you a thorough hearing evaluation to determine the cause of your hearing loss.
At the evaluation, your hearing healthcare professional 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 might suggest an ongoing health issue.
Afterward, he or she will examine your ears for any signs of abnormalities before giving you some simple hearing tests to narrow down the diagnosis for your condition. Some conditions may require advanced testing methods, so you may need to schedule a follow-up appointment. In some cases, she may refer you to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor in order to determine a treatment plan.
How to treat temporary hearing loss
Give your ears a break
The next time your notice your ears are ringing when you’re at a concert with friends, take a break from the noise by moving into the hallway or the restroom. Don’t sit in front of the speakers. Turn the volume down on car radios and televisions.
Protect your hearing from further damage by wearing ear protection. If you know you’ll be attending a loud concert or fireworks display, wear ear plugs or ear muffs. If your hobbies include using loud equipment, such as motorcycles, snowmobiles or firearms, wear protective hearing gear – and insist your family does, too.
Remove the blockage
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:
- Ear wax. Believe it or not, ear wax is actually a good thing – most of the time. Its job is to trap dust and other small particles before they reach the eardrum. As a generally rule, ear wax falls out of your ear canal naturally. In the case of excessive ear wax that becomes impacted, it’s best to let a professional remove it.
- Ear infection. 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 ear ache 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 ear(s), 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.
Since so many different issues can lead to hearing loss, it’s important for you to find out what’s causing it and get the condition treated. Not all hearing loss can be corrected; however, the only way to know for sure if your loss is reversible is to contact a hearing center for a thorough evaluation.