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Do you wonder why is my hearing muffled?

Do you find that you can hear people talking, but it’s just not clear. Do you notice that even when people are yelling, you still can’t understand what was said. Why is that? The answer lies in the way we hear. A tiny organ inside our inner ear called the cochlea sends electrical impulses to our brain when we hear sounds. It is a snail shaped organ organized by the pitch of the sound. The area of the cochlea responsible for lower pitch sounds are on the inside of the snail and the area of the cochlear responsible for higher pitched sounds are on the outside of the cochlea. Which part of the cochlea do you think is more susceptible to damage from loud noise and wear and tear? You guessed it, just like a house, it’s the outside that gets the brunt of the damage.  And which sounds come from the outside of the cochlea, the high-pitched sounds? How does this relate to why is my hearing muffled? Well because very often with hearing loss, it’s the hearing of high-pitched sounds that have been diminished, while the hearing of low-pitched sounds housed in the inner cochlea, remain intact. Speech sounds muffled because you are hearing the low-pitched sounds like most vowels, but missing the higher pitched sounds like consonants.

When you remove the ability to hear higher pitched speech sounds everything starts to sound pretty muffled and unclear. Making all sounds louder doesn’t really help either because then the low-pitched sounds just drown out the high-pitched sounds. What can be done about why is my hearing muffled? Well the best solution is to use complex sound processing that filters out the low-pitch sounds and only enhances the high-pitched sounds. This makes sound clearer and not just louder. The other thing to keep in mind is that the areas of cochlear damage are different for everyone. Some people only have loss in the low-pitches. Most have damage in the higher pitches. Some have damage in both the mid and higher pitches. Some have extensive damage to all areas. Therefore it’s important to have a complete audiology exam to determine the exact extent of the damage and to which pitches.

What causes muffled hearing?

  • Muffled hearing can be caused by something as simple as having earwax plugging your ear.
  • It can be caused by an ear infection or fluid in the middle ear.
  • It can be permanent hearing loss caused by excessive exposure to loud noise.
  • A tumor in the ear.
  • Hereditary hearing loss
  • Hearing loss due to the natural aging process.
  • Hearing loss diseases such as otosclerosis, or Meniere’s disease

Read more about hearing loss here.


How can you treat muffles hearing?

Muffled hearing caused by earwax or ear infection is usually treatable by removing the earwax or taking antibiotics for the ear infection. If the muffled hearing loss is caused by loud noise, hereditary factors or disease the loss is usually permanent. Advanced hearing aids, programmed specifically to correct only areas of damage can provide tremendous help and improvement for muffled hearing.

Call Marin Hearing Center at 415-927-1567 or email at to request a complete audiology exam to find out more about why is my hearing muffled.