Conductive hearing loss occurs when sounds cannot pass freely through the eardrum, then the outer ear or past the tiny bones, known as ossicles, in the middle ear. It can occur on its own or be experienced alongside sensorineural hearing loss.
Common causes of this type of hearing loss are a build up of ear wax or an ear infection in the outer ear. An accumulation of fluid in the middle ear, usually the result of an ear infection, is also a common cause of conductive hearing loss in children. An ear infection usually blocks the Eustachian tube (found in the middle ear) and this leads to a build up of pressure in the middle ear, meaning the ossicles cannot move as freely as normal. Changes in pressure in the environment can lead to temporary conductive hearing loss because of different pressures in the external and middle ear. This could occur in changing altitudes when you’re on a plane or when a train goes into a tunnel. Genetics can also lead to conductive hearing loss caused by otosclerosis – an inherited condition which results in abnormal bone growth near the middle ear.
So what are the symptoms of conductive hearing loss? The main symptom of this type of hearing loss is that sounds are generally quieter, but not distorted. You may find that you are often turning up the volume on the television, need people to repeat what they say, have better hearing in one ear than the other, or have trouble hearing when you're on the phone. You may even feel pressure or blockage in the ear, as well as pain. Depending on the cause of conductive hearing loss, loss of hearing can be temporary or permanent.
If conductive hearing loss has been caused by an infection, medication can often ease the symptoms. In other cases, hearing aids can be an effective way of helping manage conductive hearing loss. A hearing test would help determine your current level of hearing and identify whether medical referral is appropriate. If the condition has already been investigated then at the results of a hearing test could reveal which type of hearing aid would be the most beneficial to you. Having a hearing aid fitted would help overcome and manage conductive hearing loss by amplifying sounds which you may have had difficulty hearing clearly before.
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