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What Conditions can Cause Temporary Hearing Loss?

By Steve R.
Updated May 17, 2024
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Each year, millions of people suffer from temporary hearing loss. This condition is often a result of fluid in the ear, exposure to loud noise, and earwax buildup, among other reasons. Temporary hearing loss, which can be reversed with proper medication or treatment, occurs when there is difficulty with at least one part of the ear, resulting in an individual hearing some sounds or none at all.

One of the most common causes of temporary hearing loss, particularly in children, is an inflammation of the middle ear, often referred to as otitis media. Ear infections are common in children because their eustachian tube, the route between the middle ear and the back of the throat, is smaller than in adults. This leads to the passageway becoming blocked.

With otitis media, fluid occurs preventing the middle ear from transmitting sound vibrations from the eardrum on to the inner ear. When the vibrations are distorted, the outcome is moderate or temporary hearing loss. In infants, signs of otitis media include tugging of the ears, crabbiness, and fever. Typically, when the fluid goes away with the treatment of ear drops, antibiotics, or surgery, hearing will return.

Temporary hearing loss may also be noise induced. When a person is exposed to loud noises over a period of time, or an exceptionally loud noise during one instance, he can experience hearing loss. The noise damages hair cells inside the ear that change sound energy into electrical impulses.

Often times, this kind of hearing loss comes with a buzzing or ringing sound in the ears. A person exposed to loud noise may have hearing loss in one ear or both ears. In most cases, hearing will return within two days of exposure to loud noises. Loud noises that may be responsible for temporary hearing impairment, include machinery and music. This type of hearing loss may be avoided by wearing earplugs.

The accumulation of earwax, also known as cerumen, may also lead to temporary hearing loss. This earwax is made by glands found in the outer ear canal. Earwax helps to ensnare tiny particles from getting to the eardrum. These particles may potentially harm the ear. Typically, the cerumen and any pieces of potentially harmful debris hardens and falls out.

Sometimes, blockage in the ear may occur when the wax gets driven too far inside the ear canal. This often happens when a person tries to clean out his ear and uses an instrument that actually drives the cerumen further inside the ear canal. To remove excessive earwax, a person will need to see an ear, nose and throat doctor. The cerumen is typically removed with eardrops or special instruments. Once the earwax is removed, hearing will return.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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