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What is Conductive Hearing Loss?

Millions of people suffer from hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss is one of the types a person can experience. It’s important to know what this type of hearing loss is and what can cause it.

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss involves issues with the outer and middle ear, generally, the parts of the ear that are visible to the naked eye. The parts of the ear that are affected by this type of hearing loss are the external ear, the ear canal and the three bones in the middle ear or ossicles. Conductive hearing loss is different from sensorineural hearing loss, which is more common and involves the inner ear and auditory nerves.

When a person has conductive hearing loss, they can have difficulty hearing soft sounds. Even louder sounds can sound muffled to the ears of a person affected by conductive hearing loss. However, fortunately, unlike sensorineural hearing loss, conductive hearing loss is capable of being treated with surgery or medication.

Causes of Conductive Hearing Loss

There are a number of things that can lead to conductive hearing loss. One of the most common conductive hearing loss causes is a blockage in the external ear canal, such as a buildup of earwax or some type of physical change like bony growths.

A person can also experience conductive hearing loss as a result of an ear infection. A cold or allergies can result in fluid building up in the middle ear. If that fluid is unable to drain, it can lead to a problem hearing as the eardrum is unable to vibrate to capture sound as it would normally function. Ear infections of the middle ear are also commonly referred to as otitis media.

The Eustachian tube, which connects the nose and middle ear, can also lead to conductive hearing loss if it has impaired function. If fluid is unable to properly drain from the Eustachian tube, it will build up in the middle ear and affect the person’s hearing.

Swimmer’s ear, also known as otitis externa, is a common cause of conductive hearing loss. It can develop when water gets into the external ear and travels into the ear canal. Usually, it causes ear pain and tenderness but if the ear experiences swelling, it can result in hearing loss. People who are prone to swimmer’s ear should wear waterproof earplugs when they go into the water.

Malformations of the ear can be genetic and can result in conductive hearing loss. Atresia, a complete malformation of the ear, commonly occurs at birth and only affects one ear.

Eardrum collapse or eardrum perforation can cause conductive hearing loss as well. With eardrum collapse, there is excess pressure on the eardrum, which may require surgery to correct. With eardrum perforation, there is a hole present. This too can be corrected with surgery.

Most of these conductive hearing loss causes can be repaired with medication or surgery. In some cases, it may be necessary to be fitted with a hearing aid as an effective treatment.

Learn more about what unilateral hearing loss here.