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Conductive Hearing Loss: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


conductive hearing loss
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There are several types of hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss is one of them. It is a prevalent condition that impacts a lot of people from the elderly down to the very young.

Read more in this article about the causes, symptoms, and all the treatment options available for conductive hearing loss.


The ear consists of three important parts: the outer, the middle, and the inner ear. Hearing loss can be separated into two categories: conductive and sensorineural.

The inner ear is the one responsible for transmitting sound signals to the brain. If this process is hindered, it can result in hearing problems and make daily life and interaction with the surroundings very challenging.


What is conductive hearing loss?


Conductive hearing loss is caused by problems that block sounds from passing through the outer or middle ear where it cannot reach the inner ear. This results in problems with delivering sound energy to the cochlea, the hearing part in the inner ear. That is why people with this type of hearing loss have sound levels that are reduced on the way to the cochlea found in the inner ear. In other words, conductive hearing loss occurs when there is a problem in the process of conducting sound from the outer ear through the middle and into the inner ear.

“Conductive” refers to the process of sound traveling through your ear. Anything hindering this process is considered to be conductive hearing loss.


You can have conductive loss in one ear (unilateral hearing loss) or both (bilateral hearing loss). Hearing soft sounds becomes difficult. Louder sounds might be muffled.

Conductive loss can be temporary or permanent, depending on the cause. It is widespread in adults and children.


Diagnosis of conductive hearing loss


If you doubt you have this type of hearing loss, the diagnosis can be made by an ENT doctor or a hearing professional, an audiologist, who will carry out a hearing test and other office examinations of the ear.

Tympanometry, a measure of pressure on the inside of the eardrum, is also performed simultaneously with the hearing test.

In some cases, the doctor recommends a CT scan depending on the findings they discover in the physical exam.


These results are usually presented and illustrated in an audiogram. It will show the degree of hearing loss and which frequencies are affected by showing the different levels of hearing at different frequencies in both ears.


Causes of Conductive Hearing Loss


hearing loss
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There are many reasons for this type of hearing loss. It happens when the natural movement of sound towards the external or middle ear is blocked, or when sound doesn’t fully reach the inner ear.


Conductive loss affecting the external ear may result due to:

  • Cerumen, or impacted earwax, that is stuck in the ear canal

Our body usually produces earwax. When it sometimes collects and blocks the ear canal, it causes hearing loss.

  • External otitis is an infection in the ear canal that is also known as a swimmer’s ear

It is an infection in the ear canal that is usually related to water exposure or cotton swab use.

  • Foreign bodies or objects stuck in the outer ear

This is a common problem in children who put common objects like beads or beans in their ears. It can also be seen in adults who might do it by accident.

  • Bony lesions

These are benign tumors that are not cancer but might block the middle or outer ear. They are non-cancerous growths of bone in the ear canal which are often linked with cold water swimming.

  • Aural atresia or defects of the external ear canal

This case is noted at birth. It is seen with defects of the outer ear structure, which is called microtia.

  • Eardrum problems

Conductive loss associated with middle ear structures may result due to:

  • Infection or fluid found in the middle ear

The space in the middle ear usually contains air. It can become fluid-filled or inflamed. This condition is commonly known as otitis media.

This fluid in the middle ear, in the space between the eardrum and the cochlea, is caused by allergies or colds.

The infection in this area with fluid called acute otitis media, is usually painful and can cause fever.

  • Eardrum collapse

Severe imbalance of pressure in the middle ear can occur because of poor function of the Eustachian tube.

The Eustachian tube connects the middle ear with your nose. Fluid in the middle ear can drain out through the tube or can stay in the middle ear if the tube doesn’t work properly.

  • A small hole in the eardrum or perforated eardrum

The tympanic membrane is a hole in the eardrum that can be caused by infection, trauma, or severe eustachian tube dysfunction.

These are skin cells that develop in the middle ear space. It starts as a small lump but can grow and cause a lot of damage to the bones.

  • Problems with the three small bones in the ear- the malleus, incus, and stapes

  • Otosclerosis

It is a hereditary disorder where a bony growth forms around a small bone in the middle ear. This prevents it from vibrating when it is stimulated by sound.

  • Defect in the outer or middle ear

Some people may be born without an outer ear, may have a deformed ear canal, or have a problem in their middle ear bones.


Symptoms of Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss symptoms can vary depending on the cause and the severity. The ability to hear at a normal hearing level becomes difficult. Individuals with this type of hearing loss describe it as the feeling of wearing earplugs all the time. Children feel that people are mumbling, and their voices will typically sound very weird and different. People who suffer from this kind of hearing loss usually have difficulties with the overall sound loudness.


If you are experiencing conductive loss, the symptoms you often encounter are dependent on the cause of your hearing loss. It could be associated with:

  • Muffles hearing- it sounds as if people are mumbling

  • Sudden or gradual hearing loss

  • Full sensation in the ear

  • Feeling your voice is different or louder

  • Dizziness

  • A feeling of blocked ears

  • Draining of the ear

  • Tenderness or pain in one or both of the ears

  • Easier to hear out of one ear than the other

  • Problems hearing quiet sounds such as rustling leaves, whispering, distant traffic or sounds of nature

Treatments for Conductive Hearing Loss

Is conductive loss curable? Fortunately, most of the cases of conductive hearing loss are improved, cured, and treated. There are several degrees of conductive hearing loss: mild, moderate, severe, and profound.

Some types can be corrected with hearing aids. Others require specific medications or surgery. Depending on the verified cause, treatment can then be offered. Determining how much hearing loss you have, what type, at what frequency, and in which ear can be very complex, but extremely important in deciding what proper treatment is needed.


The foremost treatments for conductive hearing loss are:


Medical Treatment

Most cases of conductive hearing loss are temporary. They are cured using medical treatments. That is why seeking immediate medical assistance is a must.


There are antibiotic and antifungal medications that are used in the case of chronic ear infections or chronic middle fluid.


Hearing Instruments

There are types of losses that can be treated using hearing aids or hearing implants such as bone conduction devices.


Hearing aids are digital devices that help by analyzing sounds, amplifying the ones the individual is struggling to hear, and helping to focus on the important speech sounds. They decrease distracting background sounds. Multiple types of hearing aids use advanced technology and specific settings that work best for your condition.


Surgery

Surgery is recommended to fit for a hearing implant. The most common hearing implant solution is a bone conduction implant. An internal component is surgically implanted and works with an external sound processor that is placed behind the ear. These two parts transmit vibrations directly to the hearing nerve.

These kinds of devices ensure that the ear canal is not obstructed.


Surgery may be an option for conductive hearing loss in the following cases:

  • Congenital absence of the ear canal or the middle ear structures

  • Failure at birth of the ear canal to be open

  • Malformation of the middle ear structures

  • Otosclerosis

It is essential to know which type of hearing loss you are struggling with. If you think you might have conductive hearing loss, you should see your hearing care professional or family doctor immediately. They will diagnose the cause and discuss your next steps!


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