Conductive Hearing Loss: Signs, Causes, and Treatments

Conductive Hearing Loss: Signs, Causes, and Treatments
Dr. Steinberg
Latest posts by Dr. Steinberg (see all)

Not all hearing losses are the same. Although the most common form of hearing loss is sensorineural, the type which is less known about is conductive hearing loss. But before we learn about what this is, we need to understand how we hear in the first place.

How we hear

Hearing is a complex process involving various sections of the body.

  1. Our outer ear receives sound waves from our ear canal to the eardrum.
  2. Once sound waves strike the eardrum, a vibration occurs.
  3. These waves are sent to the middle ear’s three tiny bones. Those three bones are responsible for amplifying and increasing sound waves.
  4. Once magnified, they are then sent to the cochlea, a snail-shaped organ in the inner ear. There, the vibrations cause the liquid within the cochlea to shake, which the inner ear hair cells sense.
  5. Inner ear hair cells convert these ripples into electrical signals
  6. These signals are sent via the auditory nerve to the brain.
  7. The brain comprehends the sound signals and understands it as a sound.

What is the difference between the two types of hearing loss?

Hearing loss occurs when there is a problem that disrupts the hearing process described above. there are two main types of issues which lead to hearing loss:

Sensorineural hearing loss is attributed to inner ear damage to hair cells or auditory nerve damage. This affects your hearing capacity and reduces the consistency of the sound you hear. It is also irreversible.

Conductive hearing loss, on the other hand, occurs when you aren’t receiving sounds from your outer ear, possibly due to a blockage or earwax Sounds get quieter and sound muffled. Conductive hearing loss is more a physical disability issue than sensory hearing loss (which is caused by inner ear problems, particularly the inner ear cells). It can be temporary or permanent.

Signs of conductive hearing loss

As mentioned before, conductive hearing loss muffles the sounds around you, as if you were wearing earplugs. Here are some common effects of this kind of hearing loss:

  • Difficulty to hear quiet sounds
  • Each ear has a different hearing ability
  • Feelings of pressure in the ear
  • A strange-sounding own-voice when talking

Causes of Conductive Hearing Loss

This form of hearing loss can be caused by one of the following things:

  • Fluid from colds or allergies in your middle ear.
  • An ear infection.
  • Incorrect functioning of the Eustachian tubes. The Eustachian tube connects the middle ear and nose. This tube will drain out fluid in the middle ear. The liquid will stay in the middle ear if the tube isn’t functioning correctly.
  • A perforated eardrum.
  • Benign tumors. Such tumors are not cancer but can obstruct the middle or outer ear.
  • Earwax trapped in the ear canal, or cerumen.
  • Ear canal inflammation, otherwise known as Swimmer’s Ear
  • An object that has lodged in your ear. An example could be if your child sticks a fruit seed in their ear.

How conductive hearing loss is identified

Because of the variety of possible causes, either an audiologist or ENT physician may be able to diagnose a conductive hearing loss. They may ask you about your hearing loss and any other signs you might have, and your past. They will also examine the ears to test for any signs of ear infection, injury, or blockage using a tool called an otoscope, which offers a clear view of the ear.

Treatment for conductive hearing loss

Unlike sensorineural hearing loss, most forms of conductive hearing loss can be treated by addressing the underlying disorder in general. For example, it may come as simple as removing the foreign body from the ear, taking antibiotics or medicine for an ear infection, or cleaning away the impacted earwax.

Some forms of conductive hearing loss are better treated with a pair of reliable hearing aids that can help you hear the sounds around you in the world and carry certain sounds to the inner ear.

The causes of hearing loss can be complicated. Whatever the cause of your hearing loss, we will locate it and provide you with the best treatment and get you back to living your best life.