Causes of temporary hearing loss


Contributed by Brande Plotnick, MS, MBA
Last updated 2018-01-11T00:00:00-06:00

Sometimes hearing loss is only temporary, but that doesn’t mean you won’t still be anxious when you first notice this sudden change in your hearing. Luckily, many of the reasons why this type of hearing loss occurs are due to situations that can be quickly remedied. 

What causes temporary hearing loss

Exposure to loud noise

temporary hearing loss
Ear infections can cause temporary

hearing loss in children and adults.

For employees who work in a high noise workplace or for those who enjoy noisy pastimes, protecting the ears should be of utmost importance. Even short amounts of time spent in these types of environments can lead to temporary hearing loss.

If noise exposure is infrequent, hearing may recover. But, chronic exposure to noise that is loud enough to cause ringing in the ears can eventually lead to permanent noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). Excessive noise can occur in places you may not expect, so be prepared at all times with a pair of inexpensive foam earplugs. 

The same holds true for those folks who listen to their headphones too loudly or frequently attend loud concerts. Ringing in the ears, often called tinnitus, generally results from high noise exposure. Turn down the volume or wear protective ear equipment to reduce the chance of developing permanent hearing loss.

Accumulation of earwax

Even though production of earwax is a normal process of the body protecting the ear canal, there are times when the wax becomes impacted or stuck in the ear canal. This blockage can cause sudden loss of hearing in one or both ears, hindering the ability of sound waves to travel through the ear canal to the ear drum. When the eardrum is unable to function properly, hearing can be negatively affected.

The easiest way to restore normal hearing when a wax impaction is present is to visit a healthcare provider who can easily flush or remove the wax from the ear canal. For many people, the procedure is quick and fairly painless. 

Middle ear infections   

When the area behind the eardrum is invaded by bacteria-filled fluid, an infection is very likely to develop. Because the middle ear contains a passageway to the back of the throat, ear infections can develop from a nasty cold or virus. These infections are common in children and could affect their ability to hear temporarily.

An infection in the middle ear can cause a build-up of fluids when the body is trying to fight the infection. These fluids can put pressure on the structures of the ear that are used in hearing, such as the middle ear bones. In some cases, these fluids cause so much pressure that the eardrum can rupture and leak blood and pus-like fluids from the ear. A ruptured ear drum can be painful, but it can often repair itself once the infection has cleared.

Treatment for ear infections is typically a course of antibiotics. If you are prescribed antibiotics for an ear infection, don’t stop taking them just because you feel better. Continue taking the medication until it is gone to ensure you’ve wiped out the infection completely.

Getting help

If you think that you may be experiencing temporary hearing loss, the best way to find out for sure is to visit a hearing care professional in our directory or your physician. A simple hearing test can assess your level of hearing and even provide insight about the cause. These tests will be used to make treatment recommendations for temporary hearing loss. Take the time to be proactive about your ear health and visit a hearing center or ear doctor for more information on hearing loss and treatment. 


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