The parts of our ears that conduct sound are the ear canal, eardrum, and tiny bones in the middle ear. When there is a problem with one or more of those conductive parts, it is called conductive hearing loss. Unlike sensorineural hearing loss, which can be in the inner ear, conductive hearing loss happens in the outer or middle ear. Generally, this is caused by a sound reduction due to something blocking the sound from getting to the inner ear (where sound is interpreted).
- Earwax or a foreign object in the ear canal
- Abnormality of the outer- or middle-ear structures
- A middle-ear infection (in which fluid accumulates behind the eardrum)
- Abnormal bone growth in the middle ear
- A hole in the eardrum
- Poor eustachian tube function
Rarely, there may be more serious causes of conductive hearing loss, and these conditions, if left unidentified and untreated, may have profound medical consequences.
Once treated with a cleaning, surgery, or hearing aids, conductive hearing loss can be partly or completely reversed. Antibiotics or antifungal medications can help with ear infections. Surgery is recommended for malformed or abnormal outer- or middle-ear structures and other physical problems. However, when surgery isn’t possible, hearing aids are often the best answer, because they drastically improve hearing.