What Is Conductive Hearing Loss?
There are several different types of hearing problems, categorized by what is specifically abnormal about the how sound is or is not being heard. This article will give an overview of conductive hearing loss discussing the causes and treatments for the condition.
The conductive type of loss is when sound is not conducted (guided through) the outer ear canal to the eardrum and ossicles of the middle ear efficiently. The ossicles are the tiniest bones in the human body and are responsible for transmitting the sound from the air to the cochlea, the "seashell" shaped part of the inner ear. When the ossicles don't function, the loss of hearing can be moderate to severe.
Conductive loss generally is caused by an obstruction preventing the transferring of sound waves. Often the ear canal is blocked due to swelling or fluid from ear infections, allergies, or colds. In some cases, the blockage is more severe such as with benign tumors, swimmer's ear (infection or damage due to trapped moisture), or impacted earwax. Likewise, presence of a foreign object can cause the conductive type of loss. A physical problem with the ear itself such as an absence or malformation of the outer ear, ear canal, or middle ear, a malfunctioning eustachian tube (part of the middle ear), or damaged eardrum may also cause conductive loss.
In most cases, conductive loss is considered a curable form of hearing loss because there is no damage to the nerves. If the cause is related to illness, often antibiotics or eardrops will reduce swelling and encourage drainage so that the blockage to the ear will be gone. Earwax can be cleaned and foreign objects can be removed by a doctor. In more severe cases, as with tumors or fluid deep inside the middle ear, surgery may be implemented. For those with malformations of the ear, hearing aids have been used successfully.
There are times when conductive hearing loss is coupled with sensorineural hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the inner ear or nerve pathways. It is the most common type of permanent loss of hearing. Mixed hearing loss combines a blockage or damage of the outer and middle ear with damage to the nerves and inner ear. In such cases, any blockage can be drained or removed, but the sensorineural type of loss (when the nerves die) cannot be reversed. However, hearing aids can often help sufferers.
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