Conductive Hearing Loss: Signs, Causes, and Treatments

Parts of the Ear

There are three basic parts of the ear:

  • Outer ear – the outermost portion of the ear
  • Middle ear – found between the inner and outer ear, includes the Ossicles, Malleus, Incus, and Stapes
  • Inner ear – The innermost portion of the ear consisting of the Cochlea, Vestibule, and Semicircular Canals

Types of Hearing Loss

There are two common types of hearing loss, Sensorineural Hearing Loss and Conductive Hearing Loss. A hearing loss related to an issue in the inner ear would be a Sensorineural Hearing Loss. In contrast, when sound cannot get through the outer and/or middle ear, a Conductive Hearing Loss would be suspected.

Untreated hearing loss can affect your overall physical and mental health. Furthermore, you may experience some unique symptoms such as staggering, loss of balance or migraine-like headaches. Because of this, a visit with a hearing health professional is so important at the first sign of symptoms.

Causes of Conductive Hearing Loss

Causes of conductive Hearing Loss may include any of the following:

  • Wax buildup, earwax that becomes stuck within the ear canal. To protect the ear canal, the ear produces earwax. Body elements such as dead skin cells, hair follicles, and ear secretions are what makeup earwax or “cerumen”. Consequently, our body naturally pushes out the wax or we clean our ears to remove the debris. Furthermore, an overproduction of the earwax can cause a short-term conductive loss of hearing.
  • Adhesive otitis (middle ear filling with fluid) fluids can backup within the middle ear due to colds, allergies, and a poorly functioning Eustachian Tube. The Eustachian Tube is the hearing health pathway between the middle ear and the nose.
  • Ear infections, external otitis is an infection that forms within the ear canal. Otitis can easily occur as a result of allergies, dermatitis, too much water exposure, or items that may irritate sensitive skin like hair spray or hair dyes.
  • Foreign body toys that children get stuck in their ear or bugs/insects that become trapped within the ear.
  • Head trauma, a head injury or trauma close to the ear can cause a short-term or even permanent loss of hearing.
  • Heredity sometimes people are born without some inner or outer ear parts, creating a deformed ear canal.
  • Otosclerosis – unusual growth of the tiny bones (ossicles) in the middle ear.
  • Perforated eardrum the inner ear canal environment is very sensitive. A hole or perforation of the eardrum can occur. This could be a result of an infection, virus, loud noise, or even a rapid change in air pressure.

Symptoms of Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss symptoms:

  • noticing your own voice sounds different
  • trouble hearing voices
  • voices sounding low or muffled
  • an ear odor and/or discharge
  • not hearing equally from both ears
  • pain or pressure in one or both ears

Treating Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing health problems can be treated, managed, or even reversed in some instances. Consequently, how the conductive loss is treated will be dependent on the cause of the loss. So for example, if the cause is related to a build-up of ear wax, your physician and/or hearing specialist will use special tools to remove the wax. If wax was the only factor, then the hearing loss should return to normal.

In contrast, for more chronic factors causing hearing loss, other options for treatment might include:

Digital Hearing Aids

Advanced hearing aid devices are a great option for a variety of hearing difficulties. There have been so many advances in technology over the last 10 years in the hearing aid industry. The latest hearing aid technology has really advanced features like Bluetooth for streaming, hands-free features, background noise reduction, and so much more. Also, they are so tiny they stay hidden behind the ear. No one will even know you are wearing them!

Medications

Medications are an option. If your hearing loss is the result of inflammation or infection. For this reason, your doctor should be able to treat the loss with medication.

Surgery

Surgery is required for repair of any medical issue causing the conductive loss. This would be factors like an unusual growth, fluid in the middle ear, trauma to the head, etc.

Hearing Group

If you’ve noticed changes in your hearing and struggle with communication, contact us today. We provide comprehensive hearing health services and we’re here to help!

Jesse Hidalgo, BC-HIS

Jesse is Board Certified in Hearing Instruments and has built over 25 practices during his business career starting in 1998. Using his training in Hearing Instrument Sciences he has helped thousands of patients across those practices hear better.
Published: November 2, 2019
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