How Winter Can Affect Your Hearing

Even in Australia’s relatively mild winters, cold air and rain can cause problems for our hearing.1 These problems (and how to avoid them) include: 

  • Hardening ear wax: Winter’s lower temperatures can cause your natural ear wax to harden. This hardening is exacerbated by wearing hearing aids, as a foreign body in the ear increases wax production. Wax buildup can cause temporary hearing loss or tinnitus. Keep your ears clean (using non-intrusive methods), and visit your local Connect Hearing clinic if you have symptoms such as headaches, earaches, a feeling of pressure or ringing in the ears, or impaired hearing. 
  • Ear infections: Ear infections are more frequent in winter as the cold weather reduces circulation in the ears. Swollen glands can also block the ear’s irrigation systems, leading to fluid buildup. This excess fluid can become a breeding ground for infections. Keep your ears, throat and neck warm when outside and take over-the-counter medication to help drain your sinuses. 
  • Exostosis (a.k.a. Surfer’s Ear): ‘Surfer’s Ear’ results from exposure to cold wind and water and can lead to permanent hearing loss. The exposure causes abnormal bone growths on the ear bones that obstruct sounds’ normal path through the ear to the auditory nerves and can cause extreme wax buildup. These changes can cause pain, tinnitus and permanent hearing loss. Guard against it by always protecting your ears against exposure to cold wind and water when outdoors. 

How To Protect Your Ears When It's Cold

Winter’s low temperatures and high humidity can affect your hearing health, but you can take many steps to help prevent earaches and other more insidious problems, including: 

  • Get your hearing checked: If you experience discomfort, having a set of baseline readings on your hearing makes it quicker and easier for an audiologist to diagnose your problem.
  • Protect your ears: Wear earmuffs, hats and scarves to protect your outer ear.
  • Build up your defences: Good lifestyle habits (especially around diet, exercise and smoking) will strengthen your immune system, and carefully drying your ears after swimming or bathing will also help. 
  • Improve your hygiene: Dry your ears if wet and avoid putting foreign objects in your ears – use a sea salt diffuser instead. 
  • Avoid sudden temperature changes: Protect your ears if you step out of a warm building into cold air, and don't blast your heater as soon as you step in from the cold again.
  • Ventilate your residence: Fresh air is better than stale, though you must stay mindful of the temperature. 
  • Avoid loud noises: These can irritate or even damage your ears, making them more susceptible to problems. 
  • Maintain your hearing aids: Keep them clean, store them properly and make sure they stay dry. 
  • Get help if needed: If you experience symptoms, visit your audiologist immediately.

Cold Air And Hearing Aids

Your ears are made mostly of cartilage and skin, so they lack the muscle and fat that insulate other body parts.2  That’s why they’re so sensitive to the cold. 

When it’s cold, your ears’ blood vessels constrict to conserve body heat. This constriction can stop your hearing aids from functioning properly, so wear earplugs, hats or earmuffs. As well as keeping your ears warm, they’ll protect your hearing aids and extend their battery life. 

Enjoy winter! Walk outside, watch the rain and enjoy the change of seasons. Drop into your local Connect Hearing clinic if you have any questions or need advice on managing the cold – the team will be happy to help.


  1. [n.d.], Can the winter affect your hearing?, Greentree Hearing and Audiology, accessed 26 April 2024. 

  2. Baxter Hearing [5 May 2023], Winter Deafness: The Surprising Link Between Cold Weather and Hearing Loss, Baxter Hearing, accessed 26 April 2024.