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.
How to treat temporary hearing loss
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, like one of those in our directory, for a thorough evaluation.