Why Can’t I Hear Clearly? Causes Of Hearing Loss

Ever wonder why you can't hear? Learn about the 6 causes of hearing loss and get strategies to help you improve your hearing.

Last Updated on January 3, 2021 by Lori Geurin

According to WebMD, hearing loss is the third most common health issue in the U.S. Our hearing is important, so it can be upsetting if we begin to notice that we aren’t hearing as well as we used to. If your hearing starts to become muffled, you may fear that you’re going deaf. But there are many causes of hearing loss so it’s important to figure out what’s causing the issue.

Thoughts of never being able to enjoy our favorite music or nature sounds again can cause anxiety. Fortunately, most of the time, muffled hearing is nothing too serious (although it can be). 

My Experience With Hearing Loss

A couple of years ago I noticed I could barely hear out of my right ear. Consequently, it was frustrating to have to keep asking people to repeat what they said.

Plus, I started to notice myself nodding along with people I was talking to just to keep them from having to repeat themselves. This is dangerous because sometimes you agree to things you would never agree to if you could actually hear what the person had said!

Our kids even started joking about how I was getting older and going deaf.

At that point, I realized I needed to see a doctor because the issue wasn’t going away on its own. The first thing the doctor asked me was, “Have you been using Q-Tips to clean out your ears?” to which I sheepishly replied that I had. In fact, I’d done it for years because I wanted to keep my ears clean.

Brilliant, right?! Apparently not.

Boy, did he set me straight about that! And I’m thankful that he did so I could fix the problem.

A Common Cause Of Hearing Loss

It turns out that the naturally occurring wax in my ears had been pushed deeper in the ear canal (by the Q-Tips) for so long that the wax became hard and impacted. It was like wearing noise-canceling headphones everywhere I went. The doctor fixed this by cleaning out my ears and removing chunks of wax with his nifty ear tools. (Gross, I know) I was just so happy to hear again!

People experience fear, anger, frustration, sadness, and embarrassment when they are not able to hear. I didn’t want the people around me to have to take extra effort just to talk to me. But that was the reality of the situation. Fortunately, my family and friends were kind and patient.

Other people have similar concerns and feelings when they experience hearing loss. Having these struggles with my hearing helped me relate better to what others are going through.

Read on to learn some of the common causes of muffled hearing to see if they could be causing your hearing issues.

6 Reasons You Can’t Hear Clearly

1. Compaction Of Earwax

The ear naturally secretes ear wax if you are healthy because it helps protect the inner ear from dust and dirt that could damage it. However, sometimes our ears produce too much wax, and it can become hard, blocking the passageway that allows us to hear the world around us.

If you haven’t cleaned your ears in a while, try a cleaning spray, warm olive oil or have an ear doctor remove the wax for you and see if that allows you to hear clearly again.

2. Ear Infections

Ear infections are pretty common and they come in many forms. However, many of them cause the ear canal to swell and this can lead to muffled hearing or ears that feel clogged up. Most of the time, the condition will clear up on its own eventually, but if the infection is more serious, you may need to take a course of antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor.

3. Cold And Flu

Colds and flu viruses can cause the ear to swell like an ear infection, causing the same muffling sensation. Unfortunately, if that is the cause of your lack of aural clarity, you’ll just have to ride it out.

4. Perforated Eardrums

If your eardrum is ruptured, it can cause your hearing to become less clear. Perforation can be caused by the compaction or earwax or by an injury caused by inserting something into the ear that you really shouldn’t (such as Q-tips, mentioned above).

Depending on the severity of the injury, either antibiotics or surgery may be needed to resolve the issue.

5. Faulty Hearing Aids

If you already have some hearing issues and are wearing hearing aids as a result, it could be that your device is faulty. Before you take it in for repair, try cleaning it because it could be that a build-up of wax is muffling the sound.

If that’s not the case, your local hearing aid professional should be able to identify the problem and fix it fairly quickly.

6. Unusual Growths

If you notice that there is a growth in your ear that is causing you to hear with less clarity, you must see a doctor immediately because, although it is likely to be something minor, like a buildup of fluid, it could also be a tumor and that needs to be investigated more completely.

Summary – Why Can’t I Hear?

As you can see, there are many possible causes of poor hearing. If you have difficulty hearing take a closer look at the reasons above to see if you can find the cause of your issues.

Also keep in mind that although this post has hopefully given you some ideas of what could be wrong if you struggle with hearing loss, I suggest you see a medical professional just to get checked out.


Do you have trouble hearing? Which of the causes of hearing loss mentioned above have you had and what did you do about it?

Share your thoughts below in the comments. I’d love to hear your take on this!

Ever wonder why you can't hear? Learn about the 6 causes of hearing loss and get strategies to help you improve your hearing.
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8 thoughts on “Why Can’t I Hear Clearly? Causes Of Hearing Loss”

  1. My dad has suffered from hearing loss throughout my life, which at times was frustrating for me. (I know it was much more frustrating for him.) Awhile back my sister’s dog ate one of his hearing aids so he was forced to upgrade and it’s amazing how much of a difference they make. I still remember the first time I said something when I was behind him and he heard what I said.

    A few years ago I had a sinus infection that impacted my hearing. I remember sitting at a restaurant, unable to hear what the people at my table were saying because of my reduced hearing and all the noise in the restaurant. It totally put into perspective what my dad has experienced.

    1. Hey, Crystal – So sorry your dad has been dealing with hearing loss for so long. I’m glad he was able to upgrade his hearing aids!

      Thanks for sharing about your experience with hearing loss when you had the sinus infection. This is a great example. I agree, situations like this can help us better understand what people with profound hearing loss go through. Thanks!

  2. Ah earwax is also an issue for me! I’ve seen some contraception to remove it like i saw one with a candle at the end??? and that scared me! I havent considered looking into removing it professionally by a dr tho! I just clean it everytime I shower/bathe lol

    1. I’ve seen the candle method done on a friend and she said it really helped, but I’ve never tried it myself.

      Glad you mentioned cleaning it out in the shower. Some people find that letting the warm water from the shower spray into their ear helps clean it out. Thanks for sharing this, Glenny!

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