There are two different causes for hearing loss: conductive and sensorineural. Sensorineural hearing loss refers to damage to the nerves or cells that sense and process soundwaves, while conductive hearing loss refers to physical obstructions, damage to the eardrum, or inflammation of the middle ear space. Essentially, conductive hearing loss can be considered to be a mechanical failure and may be a temporary condition.
Types of Conductive Hearing Loss
There are four major causes of conductive hearing loss. These include:
- Obstruction of the ear canal
Obstructions in the ear canal can be caused by a number of different things. Some of the most common include earwax build-up, blood-related obstructions like hematomas, and insertion of tangible objects accidentally or purposefully in the ear canal.
- Issues with the eardrum
There are two common issues related to the eardrum (known more formally as the tympanic membrane):
The first is perforation, where the eardrum has been either punctured or torn. Perforation of the tympanic membrane can occur due to human interference (inserting something in the ear like a cotton swab), pressure-related injuries (diving into a pool too quickly and deeply), and sound related injuries (for example, being exposed to an explosion). It can also be damaged by ear infections.
The second is retraction. The eardrum can be retracted towards the middle ear, which can a symptom of allergies, the beginning of an ear infection or another condition called cholesteatoma, which occurs after long-standing retraction. The abnormal skin growths that occur behind the eardrum into the middle ear space is called cholesteatoma.
Infections within the ear can result to conductive hearing loss. In addition, there are two different types of infections that lead to conductive hearing loss:
Firstly, middle ear infections (formally, otitis media) cause conductive hearing loss by inflammation, obstruction by way of fluid, and damage or immobility of the eardrum.
Secondly, ear canal infections (formally, otitis externa) cause the ear canal to swell. This in turn narrows the ear canal, creating an obstruction that leads to conductive hearing loss.
- Malformed or damaged bones in the ear
There are several small bones in the ear which impact one’s hearing. These tiny but important bones are known as ossicles and include the malleus, incus, and stapes. Moreover, these small bones can be damaged due to several reasons. They can even be damaged or dislocated due to ear trauma or abnormal growth that impacts their ability to function properly. Any of these types of damage or deformations can result to conductive hearing loss.
How Can You Treat Conductive Hearing Loss
Naturally, the treatment for conductive hearing loss depends on the root cause behind it. Treatments may be as simple as having the doctor remove an obstruction like earwax, or as complex as creating a need to undergo surgery to replace bones. For example, you may need to be put on a medication regimen to treat an infection or reduce inflammation. In addition, certain types of conductive hearing loss causes can require surgery as well. In any case, treatments are much more effective when they are started as soon as possible. Thus, it is advised to seek medical attention in the event of hearing impairment as soon as possible.