Hearing loss can affect anyone at any time, causing a significant impact on the person’s overall quality of life, including their ability to enjoy many activities both alone and with friends and loved ones. While the most common type of hearing loss is called sensorineural hearing loss, a type of hearing loss that occurs when the tiny “hearing” hairs of the inside ear become damaged, often as a result of long-term exposure to noises, many people suffer from a second kind of hearing loss called conductive hearing loss.
What is conductive hearing loss?
Conductive hearing loss occurs when the middle or outer portions of the ear become blocked or damaged in a way that prevents the normal transmission of sound waves. Conductive loss and sensorineural hearing loss sometimes occur together, in a condition called “mixed” hearing loss.
Some causes of conductive hearing loss are easily identified – for instance, when earwax builds up and blocks sound waves. But other types are more serious and complex. Conductive loss can occur for many reasons. Here are 10 of the most common causes of conductive hearing loss:
- Earwax buildup: Earwax is a natural byproduct of the ear, providing moisture to the structures of the ear canal while also providing a barrier to pathogens that could cause infection. Many people attempt to “clean” the ear canal with cotton swabs, which tends to cause the wax to compact in the ear canal, blocking hearing. Earwax buildup can usually be easily removed right in the doctor’s office.
- Fluid buildup: When fluid found normally in the ear doesn’t drain properly, it can collect and create a sound barrier that’s difficult for sound waves to penetrate.
- Infections: Respiratory ailments and allergies are commoncauses of conductive hearing loss, which occurs when swelling or fluid backup prevents sound waves from reaching the inner ear.
- Foreign bodies: Bugs are a common cause of foreign body obstruction, but obstruction can also occur when small objects are placed inside the ear.
- Cholesteatoma: A cholesteatoma is a benign growth that often develops in the middle ear as a result of chronic ear infections or an abnormality of the Eustachian tubes.
- Perforated or “popped” eardrum: Sometimes an untreated infection or a trauma to the ear drum causes a hole, preventing the eardrum from functioning properly.
- Accidents and trauma: Trauma to the bones inside the middle ear, either as a result of an accident or from prolonged fluid buildup, can also cause conductive hearing loss.
- Eustachian tube problems: More common among children in whom the Eustachian tube may not be fully formed, Eustachian tube problems can prevent the ear from draining properly, resulting in conductive hearing loss.
- Calcification: Otosclerosis is a relatively common cause of calcification, a condition that causes the ear bones to stiffen, preventing normal sound wave transmission.
- Malformation: Malformation refers to a structural anomaly in the way the outer or middle ear forms and grows, which results in problems with sound transmission in the outer or middle ear.
If you’re experiencing a hearing loss, no matter how mild, having a hearing evaluation is the first step in restoring your hearing so you can lead a more enjoyable life. Call today to schedule your hearing evaluation so you can take that first step toward better hearing.