Conductive Hearing Loss
When sound waves enter an individual’s ear canal, they cause the ear drum to vibrate, which in turn causes the ossicles, or tiny bones behind the eardrum, to vibrate. The vibration from the ossicles is transmitted to the COCHLEA which is then transmitted to the auditory nerve, which communicates the signal to the brain. In a healthy, properly functioning auditory system, this flow of sound occurs without interruption. However, for an individual with conductive hearing loss, the conduction of the sound waves is impeded or obstructed, leading to diminished hearing.
What Is Conductive Hearing Loss?
As the 2nd most common type of hearing loss, conductive hearing loss affects people of all ages and is often temporary and resolvable. Conductive hearing loss presents itself when there is some form of damage to the outer or middle ear, whether a blockage in the ear canal or a disorder in the middle-ear structures. Because sound waves aren’t able to travel effectively from the outer or middle ear to the inner ear, a person with conductive hearing loss usually experiences sounds as muffled or distant.
Conductive hearing loss differs from the most common type of hearing loss – sensorineural – in that while conductive hearing loss is primarily an acoustic conduction problem, sensorineural hearing loss is primarily an acoustic generation or perception problem. An individual with conductive loss hears sounds more quietly than they would normally, but an individual with sensorineural loss may hear things in a distorted manner as well.
What Causes Conductive Hearing Loss?
Because conductive hearing loss may be caused by any form of damage to the outer or middle ear, the number and types of potential causes are diverse. Some of the most common causes include:
- Cerumen (earwax) buildup and blockage, as well as foreign bodies lodged in the ear canal.
- Infections and trapped fluid in the middle ear, including Swimmer’s Ear, where the ear canal becomes inflamed due to prolonged water exposure.
- Perforation of the eardrum caused by direct trauma or excess pressure.
- Structural problems with the ossicles (small bones) in the ear.
- Benign bone growths, cysts and tumors that jut into the ear canal, obstructing the passage of sound waves.
- Inherited or genetic syndromes and conditions.
How Is Conductive Hearing Loss Treated?
In most cases, individuals diagnosed with conductive hearing loss are able to be successfully treated and regain either complete or partial hearing ability. When an accumulation of earwax or another foreign body is detected, treatment may be as simple as removing the obstruction. In other cases, medicine may be the appropriate route, like prescribing antibiotics when an infection is the cause. When the source of conductive hearing loss leads to some degree of long-term or permanent hearing diminishment, hearing aids and other amplification devices are usually quite effective as a means of hearing correction. Surgical procedures are also a possibility to correct conductive loss.
What Should I Do If I Suspect Conductive Hearing Loss?
If you or someone you love is exhibiting symptoms of hearing loss, it’s important that you visit your primary care physician or a licensed audiologist to discuss options. Find the nearest Avada Hearing Care Center, and schedule an appointment to learn more about your specific type of hearing loss and develop a treatment plan that’s catered to your individual needs.