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Say what? Understanding conductive hearing loss

When the cause of your hearing loss stems from your outer or middle ear, you’re dealing with conductive hearing loss. Whether genetics, noise exposure, or other factors are to blame, there are ways to to deal with and treat the symptoms of your hearing loss.
Causes, symptoms and treatment

What causes conductive hearing loss?

Often it is just a matter of too much wax. It also might be that you have fluids in the middle ear that don’t allow the eardrum to move. It could also be a cyst, tumor, or “foreign object,” i.e., a bug that’s gotten stuck in your ear. It is important that you visit your doctor to find out the cause.

Symptoms of conductive hearing loss

Does your hearing sound muffled? Are you experiencing dizziness or pain in your ears? Some quiet sounds might have just disappeared, seemingly on mute. Perhaps there is some fluid drainage from the ear or that odd feeling that your ears are stuffy?
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Treating conductive hearing loss

Since this kind of hearing loss takes part in the outer or middle ear, a simple build-up of earwax is  often the cause. Medicine or surgery can also correct any further problems, such as cysts, tumors or infections that may be causing the issue. Hearing aids can also help. In particular, bone conduction hearing aids, which actually shake those little bones in your ear back into action, may be a fitting solution.
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Time to call the doctor

With outer ear problems, you should never try to help yourself. That includes never sticking anything in your ear. Seek medical assistance to determine what may be causing your hearing loss—whether it’s an illness, foreign object or something more serious. Cases of permanent hearing loss can best be managed with hearing aids.

Conductive hearing loss: FAQ

Is conductive hearing loss permanent?

Good news: depending on the cause, conductive hearing loss very well may be reversible. Perhaps you have been in a bad car accident and you feel like your own voice sounds odd to you. Any pain, pressure, or strange odor in your ears are other clues you may have a condition that causes treatable conductive hearing loss.

Is conductive hearing loss serious?

It can be serious and you should never rely on home remedies. Not treating conductive hearing loss can lead to scarring and irreversible damage. 

How can you test for conductive hearing loss?

The Weber test compares hearing in both ears with each other. Your doctor or Hearing Care Professional will use a vibrating tuning fork, which is held against the forehead. You will be asked whether one ear hears the fork more loudly. Unequal perception of sound indicates a conductive deficit in the loud ear or a neural deficit in the quiet ear. 

What is a Rinne test?

A Rinne test is similar to the Weber test, but the tuning fork is placed behind the ear. 

What is the difference between conductive and sensorineural hearing loss?

The word “conductive” indicates an outer or middle ear problem whereas “sensorineural” is “neural,” meaning it indicates an inner ear or auditory nerve problem.

Do hearing aids help conductive hearing loss?

Many cases of conductive hearing loss can be treated using hearing aids. If there is no damage to the auditory nerve, hearing aids can be used to amplify sound and restore some levels of hearing for those with conductive hearing loss. Talk to your Hearing Care Professional to determine if hearing aids are the right treatment for your conductive hearing loss.

How is conductive hearing loss represented on an audiogram?

Conductive hearing loss can be seen on an audiogram when the bone conduction threshold is normal and the air conduction threshold is abnormal. An air-bone gap will also be present on the audiogram.

What does conductive hearing loss feel like?

Conductive hearing loss generally leads to quiet, muffled hearing. Those experiencing conductive hearing loss may hear better in one ear over the other, and their own voice may also sound different than usual. Pain in the affected ear and feeling dizzy are also not uncommon.

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