by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

A lady wrote:

I read your article ["Sudden Hearing Loss Is a Medical Emergency"]  as I am suffering a single-ear hearing loss. It started two days ago when I woke up. It felt like something was blocking my left ear. It was not very severe though. But today when I woke up, the hearing loss became intense. I read about how to hum and listen to it. I hear the hum louder in the blocked ear, so it’s not a serious problem (according to your article). But the weird thing is that I do not have cold at the moment, so how come that I have a blocked ear? Any suggestions for me?

Although an ear plugged by a cold is one common cause of hearing loss such as you describe, my first reaction is that your sudden hearing loss was likely caused by excess wax in your ear canals. Probably what happened is that a bunch of it fell off the sides of the ear canal and now has blocked off the whole ear canal causing the hearing loss. I’d suggest you have your doctor check out your ear canals and remove any excess wax if he finds any. Hopefully, that will solve your problem.

A few days later this lady confirmed my suspicions. She wrote: “I went to my doctor and he checked my left ear. He said that it was all wax. He told me to pour some warmed olive oil into my left ear and let it soften the wax inside my ear. I did this three times before coming back again the next day. He then performed a suction to my left ear and finally all the wax came out and I can hear very clearly now. He told me to regularly clean my ears to make sure it does not happen again.”

This incident is an example of where the “hum test” (see the above article link) comes in very useful for separating sudden hearing loss conditions that are true emergencies from those that are not. Although scary, sudden hearing loss does not always have dire consequences attached that require immediate treatment. It can be something as simple as ear wax blocking your ear canal. However, if in doubt, seek professional help immediately.