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A conductive hearing loss is a type of hearing loss that occurs if there is damage to the outer ear, ear canal, eardrum, or tiny bones of hearing, called ossicles (malleus, incus, stapes).

Causes:

  • Fluid in the middle ear
  • Allergies
  • Ear infections
  • Poor Eustachian tube function
  • Hole in the eardrum
  • Malformation of the outer ear, ear canal, or middle ear bones
  • Ear wax blocking the ear canal
  • Tumors
  • Foreign body in the ear canal
  • Otosclerosis (overgrowth of bone around a tiny bone in the middle ear that prevents it from properly vibrating)

Diagnosis:

  • Diagnosis is usually made after completing a thorough history and examination.   Hearing testing can be used to help identify and confirm specific causes of conductive hearing loss.

Treatment:

  1. Fluid in the middle ear:  placement of ear tubes (small plastic tubes placed in the eardrum to allow ventilation and drainage of the middle ear).
  2. Allergies:  comprehensive allergy testing for environmental allergens (trees, grass, weeds), animals and pets (cats, dogs).
  3. Ear infections:  antibiotics are the mainstay of treatment, but repeated infections are typically treated by placing ear tubes.
  4. Poor Eustachian tube function:  this tube serves to naturally ventilate and drain the middle ear space. Allergies, cigarette smoking, or a family history of ear infections may predispose patients to Eustachian tube dysfunction, which leads to fluid in the middle ears and possibly repeated ear infections.  This may require treatment with ear tubes.
  5. Hole in the eardrum: a ruptured eardrum can result from ear infections or trauma (q-tip, motor vehicle accident, assault, swimming/diving).  Surgical repair is usually effective in most cases and can be accomplished using a graft (patient’s own tissue)
  6. Malformation of the outer ear, ear canal, or middle ear bones:  surgical treatment is usually effective in restoring some level of hearing, but patients may choose to simply use a hearing aid in order to improve hearing levels.
  7. Ear wax blocking the ear canal:  ear wax (cerumen)is a natural defense mechanism that helps prevent infection of the ear canal.  If it is causing hearing loss, then removed by a specialist is recommended to avoid injury to the ear canal and eardrum.
  8. Foreign body in the ear canal: this usually occurs in small children as they curiously place beads, erasers, and other foreign bodies in the ear canal and are unable to remove them.  Removal by a specialist is recommended to avoid injury to the ear canal and eardrum.
  9. Otosclerosis: bony overgrowth around the smallest bone in the ear called the stapes, occurs in a variety of individuals and is treated with surgical placement of a special prosthesis, or implant, that helps to improve or restore hearing.
  10. Tumors:  although ear tumors are rare, treatment is usually surgical, and may result in further loss of hearing as the surgery to remove the tumor may involve removing a portion of the outer, middle, or inner ear.
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