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Conductive Hearing Loss: Causes, Symptoms, And What You Can Do

By Marta Manning
Medically Reviewed by Lilach Saperstein, AuD on January 13, 2021
Conductive hearing loss causes range from earwax to ruptured eardrums. Working with your doctor will ensure you can identify the root cause of your hearing loss and decide on the proper treatment.

Conductive hearing loss can happen any time something prevents sounds from getting across the outer and middle ear. A range of factors can cause this type of hearing loss in adults and children. Luckily, various treatments are available. In most cases, audiologists can pinpoint the cause and resolve the issue.

What Causes Conductive Hearing Loss?

Your ears are intricate networks of components working together to ensure successful hearing. Conductive hearing loss can occur if a structural component of the ear, liquid, or foreign object blocks the outer ear or middle ear from transmitting sound waves to the inner ear.

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, common causes of this type of hearing loss include:

  • Ear infections
  • Fluid buildup in the middle ear (usually due to allergies or a cold)
  • Hole in the eardrum
  • Blockage caused by earwax 
  • Foreign object trapped in the ear
  • Benign tumors
  • Structural defects in the outer or middle ear

Conductive Hearing Loss Symptoms

Signs of this type of hearing loss can be subtle, especially when conditions like earwax or fluid buildup start out mild but get more pronounced with time. The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery recommends looking out for these symptoms:

  • Muffled hearing
  • Inability to hear quiet sounds
  • Dizziness
  • Gradual loss of hearing
  • Ear pain
  • Fluid drainage from the ear
  • Feeling that your ears are full or stuffy

If your doctor suspects you have conductive hearing loss, they will run a series of hearing tests to confirm the diagnosis. According to University of Iowa Health Care, this evaluation should include:

  • A physical examination. This checks for physical abnormalities such as blockages of the external auditory canal due to tumors or infection and holes in the eardrum.
  • A Rinne hearing test. This test distinguishes the sounds being transmitted through air conduction from those that are being transmitted through bone conduction in order to detect conductive hearing loss in one ear at a time, according to StatPearls publishing. 
  • A Weber hearing test. This quick, simple test can detect both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss in each ear, according to StatPearls publishing. 
  • An audiogram test. Your doctor will use the graph generated by this test in order to look for specific indications of conductive hearing loss. 

Treatment Options That Can Help

After confirming you have conductive hearing loss, your provider will recommend treatment options depending on what is causing the problem. If the hearing loss is due to an obstruction in the ear, your doctor will remove the material and work with you to prevent it from accumulating in the future. Your provider may prescribe antibiotics or antifungal medications to ward off ear infections.

The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery notes that structural ear issues like holes, bone lesions, or tumors will require surgery to resolve. According to Hearing Link, special hearing aids for this type of hearing loss can be helpful in patients who are not good candidates for surgery. Your doctor will help you decide which course of treatment is best for you.  

Start Your Journey To Better Hearing Today.

In many cases, hearing loss is a treatable condition. It is worth taking the time out to get the answers and treatment you deserve. Don’t wait. Start today.