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What is conductive hearing loss?

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss occurs when conduction of sound through the outer ear and/or middle ear is disrupted (See Figure 1). The outer ear begins at our pinna (the visible part of our ear) and sound is funneled the ear canal to the eardrum. The middle ear begins at the eardrum (also called the tympanic membrane. Behind the eardrum is the middle ear space containing three tiny bones. The eardrum vibrations cause the middle ear bones to vibrate.

Some examples of disruptions that may occur in the outer or middle ear include excessive earwax in the ear canal, perforation of the eardrum (by cotton swabs or other means),  middle ear infection with fluid build up and disease of the middle ear bones (otosclerosis).

Approximately 10% of all hearing losses are conductive, which can range from mild to moderate in severity. Conductive hearing loss can often be medically treated, and in many cases, hearing can be restored.

For persons with permanent conductive hearing loss treatment such as hearing aids or bone-conduction hearing aids may be a feasible treatment option.

Symptoms of conductive hearing loss

With conductive hearing loss, the overall volume of sound is reduced. Symptoms of conductive hearing loss may include: turning up the volume on the television or radio, asking people to repeat what they say, hearing in one ear better than the other, and difficulty hearing on the telephone. With conductive hearing loss, when volume is sufficiently increased, clarity and understanding are usually intact. Depending on the cause of the conductive hearing loss, other symptoms such as ear pain, drainage from the ears, or a feeling of pressure or blockage in the ears, may occur.

If you suspect you may have a conductive hearing loss consult with your physician and/or audiologist.  A full hearing evaluation with bone conduction testing will determine if you do in fact have conductive hearing loss.

conductive hearing loss
Figure 1. Conductive Hearing Loss. Photo courtesy of Sonic Innovations

For more information on Hearing Loss visit Healthy Hearing's Quick Guide to Hearing Loss.


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