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Temporary Hearing Loss

Temporary Hearing Loss

Temporary hearing loss may occur due to various reasons such as earwax accumulation, exposure to loud sounds or ear infections. Learn more about its causes, preventions and treatments.
Reshma Jirage
Last Updated: Apr 4, 2018
According to Hearing Health Foundation, about 26 million Americans, between the ages of 20 and 69, suffer from temporary hearing loss as a result of exposure to loud noises.

Hearing loss can be temporary or permanent, hearing loss that is temporary or short-lived, can be treated with medications and surgical methods, whereas permanent hearing disability cannot be treated. Hearing loss can occur gradually, due to factors like aging, or it can occur suddenly, due to an accident. Temporary or impermanent hearing loss is fairly common, wherein a person is partially or completely unable to hear for a short period of time. It is cured easily, but if precaution is not taken, it can lead to permanent hearing loss.
Hearing loss, whether temporary or permanent, may result due to damage to the sensory structures (hair cells) of the inner ear, auditory nerve pathway or auditory nerve present in the brain. These sensory structures may also get damaged due to infections, prolonged intake or side effects of certain drugs, skull injuries and tumors.
Causes of Temporary Hearing Loss
There are various causes for temporary loss of hearing ability, most of them are reversible after proper treatment. Some of the common causes are:
Exposure to Loud Sounds
This is one of the most common causes, also known as noise-induced hearing loss. Due to constant exposure to loud sounds above 80 db, the sensitive structures in the inner ear get damaged, which results in hearing loss. This type of hearing loss is accompanied by tinnitus (ringing of the ears). If the exposure is continuous and if left untreated, it can lead to permanent hearing loss. Such hearing loss is commonly observed in people who work in a high-noise workplace. People who listen to their headphones too loudly, or frequently attend rock concerts, have been known to suffer from temporary loss.
Earwax Accumulation
Production of earwax is a natural process, but sometimes the earwax get accumulated in the ear canal. This prevents sound waves from traveling through the ear canal to the eardrum, leading to this type of hearing loss.
Middle Ear Infections
Ear infections are most likely to develop when one is suffering from cold or fever. The phlegm accumulates and invades the passageway between the ear and the throat, leading to hearing loss. There may be sudden tear or rupture in the eardrum, which may result in perforation. It may be accompanied by pain and blood or pus drainage out of the ear. This condition is known as otitis media. Hearing loss caused due to otitis media is serious and needs to be attended to by a doctor as soon as you start observing symptoms. Most perforations in the eardrum heal immediately and on their own.
Injuries
Another cause can be an injury to the head or ear. Medical help should be sought immediately to determine level of damage. Depending on the injury, the doctor may perform surgery to reverse the damage. If the blow to the head or ear is of low intensity, the injuries may sometimes heal on their own. However, severe injuries may cause permanent damage, resulting in permanent hearing loss.
Pressure Change
When traveling by air, some people experience hearing loss for a short duration, this is because of the difference in air pressure of the middle ear and atmospheric pressure. It usually occurs when the flight is taking off or landing. The sudden, dramatic change in air pressure blocks the ear canal. The ears usually pop open in some time after the landing. Chewing gum, yawning and using ear plugs are some ways to tackle it.
Some other causes of are:
  • Narrowing of the ear canal
  • Surgery or disease
  • Foreign bodies in the ear
  • Birth defects
  • Growth in the ear canal
It should be noted that these causes can be cured either by taking precautions, or with the help of surgery. However, it is best if causes and symptoms are identified early in order to prevent further damage.
Treatment and Prevention
Temporary hearing loss can be easily treated and reversed. Identifying symptoms and determining underlying causes is the first step in the treatment process. Depending on the cause, treatment can be carried out accordingly.
Treatment
  1. If hearing loss is due to the accumulation of earwax, then the ears have to be cleaned. Trying to remove clogged earwax at home can be dangerous if the person concerned is not skilled. Thus, it is advised to visit a healthcare provider to get it removed.
  2. When suffering from cold, it is very common for the ears to get blocked. Sometimes phlegm and pus accumulates inside the ear leading to an infection, causing temporary loss of hearing. Such infections are usually treated with antibiotics, sometimes with decongestants. However, if it still continues then medical attention is required as it can lead to permanent hearing loss.
  3. In case of ear or head injury, doctors should be consulted right away as there can be a possibility of inner ear damage. After carrying out tests and scans, the doctors will advise treatment and preventions.
Prevention
  1. If the cause of hearing loss is exposure to loud sound, the immediate remedy is to avoid high levels of noise for a few hours. One should try to avoid continuous exposure to loud sounds. Some preventive measures include wearing earplugs or other auditory protective devices if you are working in a loud environment, staying away from loud speakers at concerts and lowering the volume when using headphones.
  2. Using cotton swabs, hair pins, finger nails or placing any object in the ear to try to dig out hardened wax can puncture the delicate membrane of the eardrum. Inserting objects like pencils, food, buttons and pins too deeply into the ear canal to remove earwax should be avoided to prevent injuries to the eardrum.
The motto of the largest private funder of hearing research in the US, is apt for preventing hearing loss. Walk-Block-and-Turn: walk away from a sound, block sound (with ear plugs, ear muffs or hands), and turn down the volume.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.