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Conductive hearing loss

Understanding conductive hearing loss

Conductive hearing loss is one of three types of hearing loss. When sound fails to reach the inner ear through the outer and middle ear, you’re dealing with conductive hearing loss. Find out what causes it, the symptoms, and more information on proper prevention and treatment.
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What is conductive hearing loss?

Sound wave roadblocks

Conductive hearing loss is caused by a problem in the outer or middle ear, preventing sound from reaching the inner ear.

The inner ear is responsible for transmitting sound signals to the brain and, if this process is hindered, it can result in difficulty hearing.

Different from sensorineural hearing loss, which indicates an issue with the inner ear, conductive hearing loss can result from something as simple as earwax to more pressing issues, such as damage to the eardrum.

Depending on the cause, most cases of conductive hearing loss can be treated and, in some cases, completely resolved.

Book an appointment with one of our hearing centers to get your hearing tested for conductive hearing loss.

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Types of hearing loss HearUSA

Getting to the root of the problem

Conductive hearing loss is causes by issues with the middle or outer ear. These can vary from a simple blockage to issues that require surgical treatment. Common causes of conductive hearing loss include:
  • A blockage caused by impacted earwax
  • Infection or fluid build-up in the middle or outer ear
  • The use of foreign objects in the ear, such as cotton swabs
  • Damage or a hole in the eardrum
  • Abnormal bone growth in the middle ear (otosclerosis)
  • Benign tumors
  • Eustachian tube issues
  • Structural problems with the outer or middle ear
Signs and symptoms

Recognizing conductive hearing loss

If you’re experiencing conductive hearing loss, the specific symptoms you encounter are highly dependent on the cause of your hearing loss.

When it comes to conductive hearing loss, common signs and symptoms include:

  • A feeling of fullness in the ear
  • Muffled hearing, making it sound like people are mumbling
  • A gradual or sudden loss of hearing
  • Drainage from the ear
  • Pain in the ear
  • Problems hearing quiet sounds, such as whispering, rustling leaves, distant traffic, the hum of electronic devices or the subtle sounds of nature
If you experience a sudden loss of hearing, be sure to contact your doctor or Hearing Care Professional immediately, as successful treatment of sudden hearing loss can often be time sensitive.
A hearing loss can be tiring if you don't wear a hearing aid
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Conductive hearing loss audiogram

Decoding your online hearing screening results

Conductive hearing loss audiograms will generally show greater hearing loss in low-frequency ranges, such as subwoofers in a sound system, thunder, large animal noises and diesel engines, as conductive hearing loss tends to affect lower frequencies rather than higher ones. It’s also often symmetrical, meaning it affects both ears.

To identify conductive hearing loss, you can test for two thresholds: air conduction thresholds, which use a signal sent through the air, and bone conduction thresholds, which are determined through mechanical vibration sent directly to the inner ear. An air-bone gap would indicate a conductive hearing loss. This means the bone conduction thresholds will be normal, but air conduction thresholds will be elevated.

The red line with the O shows the right ear and the blue one with the X shows the left ear.

Book an appointment with one of our hearing centers to get your hearing tested for conductive hearing loss.

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 Audiogram conductive hearing loss
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Simple steps to protect your hearing

While some causes of conductive hearing loss may not be preventable, such as bone growth or structural issues, there are ways to take care of your hearing and prevent damage.

Avoid sticking any foreign objects in your ears, such as cotton swabs.

If you believe earwax build-up may be causing hearing issues, contact a doctor or Hearing Care Professional. Ear plugs or earmuffs can also protect your eardrums from physical damage caused by sudden loud noises.


Start hearing better today

If you’re experiencing hearing loss, contact a Hearing Care Professional. A hearing screening and evaluation will be done to determine your type of hearing loss, extent of hearing loss and what may be causing it.

If conductive hearing loss is determined, there are various types of treatment. Simple earwax build-up or a foreign object in the ear can be removed and hearing will generally be restored. Other causes of conductive hearing loss may require surgery or, if hearing can’t be restored, hearing aids can be a great way to get back your hearing health.

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Did you know?

Conductive hearing loss is often reversible

As the cochlea generally remains unharmed in cases of conductive hearing loss, it’s often possible to fix or reverse the symptoms. This is done by removing foreign objects from the ear canal or through surgical intervention. If such treatment isn’t possible, hearing aids can usually help restore hearing abilities.
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Expert advice

Say not to cotton swabs

Avoid things that can push earwax further into the ear canal and cause blockage, such as cotton swabs and ear candles. These items can cause more damage than good and increase the risk of infection. Instead, contact a Hearing Care Professional to clear up the issue.

Conductive hearing loss: FAQ

Is conductive hearing loss permanent?

Is conductive hearing loss serious?

How can you test for conductive hearing loss?

What is a Rinne test?

What is the difference between conductive and sensorineural hearing loss?

Do hearing aids help conductive hearing loss?

How is conductive hearing loss represented on an audiogram?

What does conductive hearing loss feel like?

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