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.
If you’ve flown on an airplane with a head cold and your ears clogged up, this was caused by the effects of varying cabin pressure on your middle ear and Eustachian tubes. Eustachian tubes are canals on each side of your face that run from the back of your nose and upper throat to your middle ear. It’s likely that your temporary diminished hearing was similar to conductive hearing loss related to Eustachian tube dysfunction. This is one of the more common underlying causes of conductive hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss is far less common than sensorineural hearing loss, comprising only 10% of all hearing loss cases.
Ear anatomy consists of the sound-conducting system (outer and middle ear) and sound-transducing system (the inner ear). The outer ear direct sounds onto your eardrum (tympanic membrane) and then these sound vibrations are transmitted through your middle ear via small ear bones prior to reaching your inner ear (cochlea).
This type of hearing loss is typically mild or moderate. If you have conductive hearing loss, sounds will be softer, but when they’re amplified, you’ll hear them clearly. It may seem like you can hear better in a noisy setting because this type of hearing loss lessens the background noise that would otherwise interfere with the conversations you’re trying to hear. Wearing ear plugs or putting cotton balls in your ears simulates what conductive hearing loss sounds like.
The underlying causes of conductive hearing loss are frequently classified by the impacted anatomy: the outer ear and ear canal versus the middle ear. Some causes are quite common (e.g. impacted earwax), while others are rare (e.g. cholesteatoma).
The following tests may be used to diagnose conductive hearing loss. Additional tests are used to diagnose underlying diseases that result in conductive hearing loss.
Unlike sensorineural hearing loss which is permanent, conductive hearing loss may be temporary and resolve on its own, or can be corrected surgically or medically. Treatment varies depending on the underlying cause.
If you’re experiencing any signs of conductive hearing loss, it’s important to seek treatment from a licensed hearing professional as soon as possible. Untreated hearing loss can lead to permanent issues and have a negative impact on your overall health, especially when the underlying cause is serious.
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