When a person has conductive hearing loss, sound cannot pass through the outer and middle ear to reach the inner ear. This can be due to a blockage or damage.
Doctors are often able to treat conductive hearing loss with medication and surgery.
This article discusses the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment of conductive hearing loss. It also answers some common questions about the condition.
People with conductive hearing loss often have difficulty hearing soft or low volume sounds. Some individuals may find they need to turn up the volume of speakers, phones, and televisions to much louder volumes than before. This may be an indication of conductive hearing loss.
Other symptoms of conductive hearing loss may include:
Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound cannot reach the inner ear due to damage or a blockage. These can occur due to:
- earwax stuck in the ear canal
- issues with Eustachian tube function, which runs from the middle ear to the back of the nose and throat
- benign tumors, which can block the middle or outer ear
- ear infection
- swimmer’s ear
- a hole in the eardrum
- a foreign object stuck in the outer ear
- a problem with bone or other tissue growing incorrectly in the middle or outer ear
An ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor may diagnose conductive hearing loss. They will
A doctor may perform several tests to make a diagnosis.
Pure tone audiometry
During the test, the person may be in a sound booth and will wear headphones and a bone conductor. This device causes gentle vibrations that travel to the inner ear.
The healthcare professional will play a sound, and the person will signal when they hear it by pressing a button or raising a hand. The test can help determine their hearing threshold, which indicates the softest sound they can hear.
In this test, a doctor uses air pressure to test vibrations between the eardrum and middle ear. They insert a small earphone-shaped probe into the ear and push air through it from an attached device.
How the eardrum moves in response to the air can help the doctor determine whether there is a buildup of wax in the ear, fluid in the middle ear, or a hole in the eardrum.
Acoustic reflex measures
In this test, a doctor will play a sound through a probe in a person’s ear and measure the tightening of a small muscle in the middle ear. This muscle reacts to loud noises, and the tightening is an acoustic reflex. The doctor will monitor how loud a sound needs to be before a person experiences the acoustic reflex.
Static acoustic impedance
This test can help a doctor measure how much air is in the ear canal, which shows if there is a hole in the eardrum or if there is fluid behind the eardrum.
Treating conductive hearing loss depends on the cause of the hearing loss.
In the case of otitis media with effusion, which means there is a buildup of fluid in the ear, but no signs of infection or eardrum perforation, a person may not require treatment.
Otitis media with effusion
Perforations in the eardrum also typically heal without intervention, but a person may speak with a doctor after 6–8 weeks to assess the condition.
Types of surgery
- Myringoplasty: If a hole in the eardrum does not heal, a surgeon can close it during surgery.
- Myringotomy: A surgeon makes a small incision in the eardrum to relieve pressure and drain fluid.
- Mastoidectomy: If a person has cholesteatoma — an atypical growth of skin that can develop in the middle ear — a surgeon may remove diseased cells from air-filled spaces near the inner ear.
- Stapedectomy: In this surgery, surgeons replace a small bone in the ear with an artificial device.
If there is no way for doctors to treat conductive hearing loss, a person may improve their hearing by using hearing aids. Types of hearing aids include:
- air conduction hearing aids
- bone conduction hearing aids
- bone anchored hearing aids
Below are some of the most common questions and answers about conductive hearing loss.
Is conductive hearing loss serious?
The seriousness of conductive hearing loss
Can earwax cause conductive hearing loss?
Yes, a buildup of earwax can result in conductive hearing loss. A doctor can
Who does conductive hearing loss affect?
Conductive hearing loss can affect anyone but is
Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound cannot reach the inner ear. The severity, length, outlook, and treatment for conductive hearing loss are dependent on the cause of the condition.
Causes range from easily treatable situations, such as a buildup of earwax, to more serious causes, which may require surgery.
To diagnose conductive hearing loss, a doctor may perform tests that include audiometry, tympanometry, and acoustic reflex tests. Treatment depends on the cause of the condition and can range from monitoring the condition to surgery.
A person should speak with a doctor if they think they are experiencing conductive hearing loss.