Conductive Hearing Loss

Created in Ears

Hearing loss can be broadly separated into two categories: conductive and sensorineural (damage to tiny hair cells in the inner ear). Conductive hearing loss results when there is any problem in delivering sound energy to your cochlea, the hearing part in the inner ear. Common reasons for conductive hearing loss include blockage of your ear canal, a hole in your ear drum, problems with three small bones in your ear, or fluid in the space between your ear drum and cochlea. Fortunately, most cases of conductive hearing loss can be improved.

What Are the Symptoms of Conductive Hearing Loss?

Symptoms of conductive hearing loss can vary depending on the exact cause and severity (see below), but may include or be associated with:

What Causes Conductive Hearing Loss?

Conductive hearing loss happens when the natural movement of sound through the external ear or middle ear is blocked, and the full sound does not reach the inner ear. Conductive loss from the exterior ear structures may result from:

Conductive loss associated with middle ear structures include:

What Are the Treatment Options?

If you are experiencing hearing loss, you should see an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist, or otolaryngologist, who can make a specific diagnosis for you, and talk to you about treatment options, including surgical procedures. A critical part of the evaluation will be a hearing test (audiogram) performed by an audiologist (a professional who tests hearing function) to determine the severity of your loss as well as determine if the hearing loss is conductive, sensorineural, or a mix of both.

Based on the results of your hearing test and what your ENT specialist’s examination shows, as well as results from other potential tests such as imaging your ears with a CT or MRI, the specialist will make various recommendations for treatment options.

The treatment options can include:

These conditions may not, but likely will, need surgery:

Many types of hearing loss can also be treated with the use of conventional hearing or an implantable hearing device. Again, your ENT specialist and/or audiologist can help you decide which device may work best for you and your lifestyle.

What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor?

  1. What is the cause of my hearing loss?
  2. Will my hearing loss likely get worse with time?
  3. What are my treatment options?
  4. What are the risks of the surgery you are recommending?
  5. Do you do this surgery frequently?

Copyright 2021. American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery Foundation .

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