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Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound is unable to pass through the middle ear and into the inner ear. This can be caused due to an obstruction or damage to the outer or middle ear and can be temporary or permanent, depending on the cause.

With this type of hearing loss, much of the sound is lost before it has time to reach even the hair cells or brain for processing.

Understanding conductive hearing loss

Conductive hearing loss makes all sounds seem faint or muffled.

Congenital conductive hearing loss is identified through newborn hearing screening or if the baby has microtia or other facial abnormalities.

In adults, some of the symptoms include:

  • People often find themselves turning up the volume of their device or television
  • Hearing better out of one ear compared to the other
  • Experiencing pain in one or both ears
  • Sensation of pressure in one or both ears
  • Difficulty hearing telephone conversations
  • Foul odour from the ear canal
  • Feeling like your own voice sounds louder or different

When conductive hearing loss is developed during childhood, it is usually due to otitis media with effusion. This may present with speech and language delay or difficulty hearing.

Later onset of conductive hearing loss may have an obvious cause such as an ear infection, trauma or upper respiratory tract infection.The causes can vary depending on the part of the ear is affected.

Outer Ear

  • Narrowing of the ear canal
  • Ear wax impaction (can occur suddenly when the wax blocks sound from getting through to the middle and inner ear)
  • Exostoses (bone like protrusions that can develop inside the ear canal and can cause blockages)
  • Otitis externa (also known as swimmer's ear)
  • Chronic middle ear disease
  • Otosclerosis (caused when one of the bones in the middle ear [the stapes] becomes stuck in place)

Middle Ear

  • Tear in the tympanic membrane (ear drum) due to injury, infection or extreme air pressure change
  • Otitis media (ear infection) or build-up of fluid in the middle ear
  • Blocks in the Eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear
  • Tympanosclerosis or thickening of the ear drum
  • Ossicular chain discontinuity (break in the connection between bones in the middle ear due to injury or heavy trauma)

Depending on the severity and nature of the conductive loss, this type of hearing impairment can be treated with surgical intervention or medicine.

Hearing may be restored partially, but in some cases it can be restored fully, to within a normal hearing range.

Cases of permanent or chronic conductive hearing loss may require other treatment methods, such as hearing aid devices to improve detection of sound and speech perception.

Sourced from:

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Healthy Hearing (opens in a new window)