Conductive hearing impairment is a common type of hearing loss that may occur in one or both ears and is caused when the middle ear does not receive sound properly. With conductive hearing loss, the inner ear functions properly, but some type of blockage prevents sounds from getting to the sensory cells in the inner ear. Typically, a conductive hearing impairment prevents an individual from hearing faint sounds. Conductive hearing impairment can be caused by a variety of conditions, including infection, injury, and ear wax. Generally, conductive hearing loss is only temporary and can be fixed medically or with surgery.
Common in children, conductive hearing loss can be diagnosed by an audiologist or ear, nose, and throat doctor. Hearing tests can determine the extent of conductive hearing loss. Such tests examine the range of frequencies, vibrations, and levels of sound a person is capable of hearing.
One of the most common causes of conductive hearing impairment is otitis media, which is brought on by constant ear infections. During ear infections, fluid builds up in the middle ear. The existence of fluid inside the middle ear greatly diminishes proficient transmission of sound into the inner ear. Children and infants are often prone to ear infections, as fluid build-up may exist soon after birth if the middle ear does not entirely fill with air. Later on, when fluid occurs in the middle ear, it causes chronic ear infections.
Reversible reasons for conductive hearing impairment often include impacted earwax or a foreign object, such as crayon or piece of food that obstructs the ear canal. If a person suffers from allergies, a person can also endure conductive hearing loss. This condition is called serous otitis media.
Other reasons for conductive hearing impairment include abnormalities that may develop in the ear, including skin cysts and holes in the eardrum. A condition called ostosclerosis can also be responsible for conductive hearing loss. With this problem with the ear, an abnormal bone develops in the middle ear, resulting in hearing loss.
In some instances, a conductive hearing impairment may exist at birth. If a child is born with Down syndrome or dwarfism, he may be prone to conductive hearing loss. Sometimes, an infant may be born with middle ears that did not grow properly and do not respond to sound.
Treatment for conductive hearing loss depends on the cause. Ear fluid and infections may go away on their own or may be treated with antibiotics or eardrops. In instances when a foreign object causes blockage, removal of the item generally restores hearing. In some cases, such as with ruptured eardrums, surgery is required. When surgery or medication does not resolve the conductive hearing loss, an individual may need to be fitted for a hearing device.