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Are you struggling to hear? If you’ve been turning up the volume on the TV, asking people to repeat themselves, or struggling to follow conversations, you probably have hearing loss. There are two main types of hearing loss. One is caused by the inner ear, and it’s called sensorineural hearing loss. The other is conductive hearing loss, a hearing loss that starts with a problem in the outer or middle ear.
Understanding Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss is caused by a blockage in either the ear canal or the middle ear. This blockage stops sounds from reaching the inner ear and being transmitted to the brain. The blockage can be from damage to the structures of the ear, or from a buildup of earwax or fluid in the ear canal. Conductive hearing loss makes it difficult to hear clearly, enjoy conversations with friends, or even stay safe when you’re behind the wheel. You’ll struggle to determine where sounds are coming from and may have a hard time concentrating at work and accomplishing tasks.
The Signs of Conductive Hearing Loss
There are many signs of conductive hearing loss, and if you notice any of these signs you should seek treatment immediately. The most common signs of conductive hearing loss include:
- A rapid loss of hearing, and a sudden change in your hearing abilities that may be very severe, or may worsen over several days.
- Difficultly hearing soft sounds at every pitch, not just at high frequencies.
- Feeling as if all the sounds around you are muffled or fuzzy.
- Having a full sensation in the ear canal, as if something is blocking the canal.
- Tenderness or even pain in the ear caused by illness, injury, or infection.
- A discharge coming from the ear.
- Balance issues or feeling dizzy when standing.
The Causes of Conductive Hearing Loss
There are many causes of conductive hearing loss, and any illness or injury that affects the outer or middle ear can lead to conductive hearing loss. Some of the most common causes include a build up of earwax in the ear canal that blocks sounds, and ear infections in either the ear canal or middle ear that fill the space with fluid, and make it impossible for sounds to travel naturally to the inner ear. Conductive hearing loss can also be present at birth, and structural abnormalities of the ear are a common cause of hearing loss in infants.
Other causes of conductive hearing loss are cholesteatoma, a growth of skin in the middle ear that affects the function of the ear, and otosclerosis, a condition that attacks the bones in the middle ear, and prevents them from conducting sound to the inner ear. An injury to the head or ear can damage the ear canal, puncture the ear drum, or damage any of the structures of the ear, causing conductive hearing loss. Repeated concussions can also lead to this kind of hearing loss. A foreign object, like a piece of cotton swab, can also cause to conductive hearing loss.
Best Treatment Options for Conductive Hearing Loss
The best treatment for conductive hearing loss depends on the cause of the hearing loss. If you notice any changes to your hearing health you should visit an ENT specialist or a hearing health specialist as soon as possible and find out why your hearing has changed. Conductive hearing loss can sometimes be treated medically, and an infection can be treated with antibiotics that will remove the infection, drain the fluid, and allow the ear to function normally. Surgical options can repair inner ear structures or implant a hearing device to bypass the damaged area.
Some conductive hearing loss is best treated with hearing aids, which amplify sounds in the environment and make it easier to hear clearly. After a comprehensive hearing test to determine what sounds you’re missing, you can find a hearing aid that will match both your hearing needs and your lifestyle. Wearing hearing aids will help transmit sounds to the inner ear, where the sound waves are converted to electrical impulses and sent to the brain to be interpreted as sound. Find the right treatment option for you, and enjoy all the benefits of clear hearing and communication.