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There are three forms of hearing loss, Conductive, Sensorineural, and Mixed. In this article, discussion will focus on a common form of hearing loss: conductive. First, we will define conductive hearing loss. Next, an overview will be provided of signs, symptoms, and causes of conductive loss. Finally, treatment options will be reviewed.
Understanding Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss is one of the most common forms of loss and is explained as a loss of hearing due to the obstruction of the outer or middle ear. It occurs when sounds waves are not properly transmitted along the pathways of the outer ear, tympanic membrane, or the middle ear, into the inner ear. Sounds are often reduced to a whisper, affecting loudness but not clarity. While loss of hearing is most likely temporary with a conductive loss, if left untreated hearing loss could be permanent.
Knowing the signs, symptoms, and causes of conductive loss is important in maintaining optimum hearing health. Signs and symptoms of a conductive loss may present in the following ways, difficulty hearing speech, pain or pressure in one or both ears, your own voice may sound different, a strange odor or fluid discharge may be present, or it may be easier to hear out of one ear than it is the other. When these symptoms present it is important for you to contact us at Elite Hearing to ensure the underlying cause is identified and further damage does not affect your hearing health.
Causes & Treatments for Conductive Hearing Loss
Causes and treatment of a conductive loss vary greatly. Causes can be as simple as the buildup of wax or cerumen in the ear canal, an object stuck in the ear canal, or swimmers’ ear. In some instances, these conductive losses of hearing can be rectified in the comfort of your own home. For example, in the instance of wax build up, proper hygiene and removal tools can remove the excess wax and restore hearing. In other instances, such as swimmers’ ear, a trip to the doctor may be necessary in order to resolve loss. Additional causes of conductive loss are listed below and may need more advanced treatment to resolve.
The most common cause of a conductive loss is a middle ear infection, also known as Otitis Media. Fluid builds up in the ear, causing the middle ear to swell. When this symptom occurs, pressure can no longer equalize between the middle and inner ear. If left untreated, fluid will continue to build up behind the middle ear and press on the eardrum. The eardrum can do nothing else other than swell like a balloon and pop, releasing fluid, and equalizing pressure. When a perforated ear drum heals, scar tissue forms over the hole in the eardrum. This in turn could result in a loss needing supportive treatment such as hearing aids.
Otosclerosis, a hereditary condition, causes a conductive loss when abnormal bone growth occurs in the middle ear. Otosclerosis is diagnosed when the bones in the middle ear are unable to vibrate and transmit sound waves properly to the inner ear resulting in a conductive loss. In order to correct this condition, surgical treatment is recommended.
Finally, other conductive losses that deserve mentioning include loss caused by benign (non-cancerous) tumors, malformation of the outer, middle, or inner ear, congenital stenosis or atresia (narrowing) of the ear canal, and trauma to the ear. While these causes are rare, they do contribute to conductive loss of hearing.
Treating Conductive Hearing Loss
There are many options available today for treating hearing loss. Treatment for conductive loss depends upon the area of the ear affected and falls into three categories. Surgical treatment is most often used for head trauma, tumors, or correction of ear canal malformation. Pharmaceutical treatment is used for ear infections by prescribing antibiotics to reduce inflammation and kill bacteria. Finally, supportive treatment, such as hearing aids are utilized when surgical procedures are declined or sound needs to be amplified.
Hearing health is very important to monitor and should be screened annually by our team at Elite Hearing. Baselines should be acquired in order to understand future results in later life. Treating hearing loss is very important and effective treatment and management can improve or reverse conductive loss. Untreated hearing loss could lead to further irreversible damage.
If you’ve noticed changes in your hearing and are struggling with communication, contact us today. We provide comprehensive hearing health services and we’re here to help!