Conductive hearing loss is caused by blockage or damage in your outer ear, ear canal, or middle ear, making it difficult for sounds to pass from your outer ear to your middle ear.
Conductive hearing loss is less common, affecting only 10% of all hearing loss.
Hearing loss is a relatively common problem that can affect anyone at any age. Conductive hearing loss is a type of hearing loss that can affect one or both ears and happens when some form of blockage has occurred in the middle or outer ear. This stops sound from being able to pass properly through to the inner ear. While it’s usually only temporary, conductive hearing loss is less common than sensorineural hearing loss, only accounting for 10% of hearing loss.
If you have ever flown in a plane before, you will have likely experienced a strange feeling in your ears once you reached higher altitudes. Your hearing may feel muffled and your ears feel clogged. This is conductive hearing loss. While this is a fairly common side effect of flying, it doesn’t stop it from being frustrating and uncomfortable. The sudden change in altitude and change in air pressure affects your middle ear and Eustachian tubes which run from the back of your nose and upper throat to your middle ear. This type of pressure can also happen when you scuba dive or hike at high altitudes.
Our ears are chiefly made up of three parts – the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear – and each has an important role. The outer ear directs sounds to your eardrum and then sound vibrations are passed to your middle ear through the small bones in your ear. It then reaches the inner ear (cochlea). Conductive hearing loss happens when damage or an obstruction to the middle or outer ear is stopping sound travelling to the eardrum and the tiny bones of the inner ear. It could be that something is blocking the ear canal, such as fluid or earwax or your hearing loss is a result of an infection or perforated eardrum.
Conductive hearing loss typically makes sound volume seem lower, making it very difficult for you to hear softer sounds. Louder sounds meanwhile, can seem muffled. When you have conductive hearing loss it can feel like you have cotton wool in your ears or you are wearing earplugs. While it can be frustrating and uncomfortable and disrupts your ability to hear well, it does tend to heal itself. But medicines or surgery can also be used to help treat the problem.
The key difference between sensorineural and conductive hearing loss is that it affects different parts of your ear. While sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the sensory part of the ear and often permanent, conductive hearing loss is as a result of a problem in the outer or middle ear that stops sound from conducting through the ear where it will be processed in the inner ear. It’s possible to experience both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss together – this is called mixed hearing loss.
Conductive hearing loss primarily affects your ability to be able to perceive the loudness of sounds, however, it doesn’t generally affect the clarity. If you have conductive hearing loss, then you may have some or all of these symptoms:
Symptoms of conductive hearing can vary depending on which part of the ear is affected. You may find that you have to turn the volume up on the TV to help you hear the audio better.
There are several different potential causes of conductive hearing loss, these may affect just one part of the ear or several. The underlying cause of conductive hearing loss is often used to classified by the affected part of the ear – the outer ear, ear canal or middle ear. Some of these causes include:
There are several ways that conductive hearing loss can be detected and diagnosed by your doctor. These include:
While sensorineural hearing loss is usually permanent, conductive hearing loss tends to only be temporary and resolve itself. It can also be corrected medically or surgically. The treatment for conductive hearing loss will depend on the underlying cause.
If you are worried about your hearing or your ear health in general, schedule a consultation with a hearing care professional or see your doctor. They will be able to assess your symptoms, examine your ears and determine what treatment would work best for you.
It's time to finally treat your hearing loss. Sign up for a free consultation with a licensed hearing care professional today to determine if you have hearing loss. It’s the start of your journey towards better hearing.