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Conductive Hearing Loss: Signs, Causes, and Treatments

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Dr. Timothy Teague, AuD

Dr. Teague earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Hearing, Speech and Language from Ohio University and his Doctoral Degree in Audiology from The University of Louisville. He is an active member of the American Academy of Audiology and the Ohio Board of Audiology.
Dr. Timothy Teague, AuD

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Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound is unable to reach the inner ear. To understand hearing health, first you need to understand how the ear processes hearing. The outer ear consists of two parts, the ear canal and the eardrum. The middle ear is a small air-filled space containing tiny ear bones. The inner ear is where you can find the cochlea. The cochlea is a snail shaped coil filled with thousands of tin hairs and is connected to the hearing or auditory nerve. It is also filled with fluids. The auditory nerve is connected to the pathway leaving to the brain stem.

Sound waves are collected into the ear and through the ear canal. The eardrum vibrates sound to the tiny bones in the middle ear. After, the sound travels to the cochlea where the tiny hair cells differentiate the different pitches and tones. From here, information is sent to the brain.

Understanding Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss can occur in three parts of the ear. Loss of hearing can be due to an obstruction or blockage in the outer ear. Most commonly, there is a buildup of earwax causing the obstruction. Another issue could be a hole in the eardrum causing sound to not be able to travel through. Thirdly, hearing loss can be in the ear bones. Missing ear bones or a stiffness in the ear bones could be a factor is the loss of hearing.

Symptoms of Hearing Loss

Signs and symptoms that are common when someone is losing their ability to hear are asking someone to repeat themselves, turning up the volume on a tv or radio that would seem too loud for others, and irritability when unable to hear someone speaking. a major cause for a person losing their hearing is old age. Typically, by the age of 40 is when a person will start to notice issues with their hearing. Constantly being exposed to loud noises is another way someone may experience loss of hearing. Another cause can be untreated hearing loss. Untreated hearing loss is caused by an ear infection that is ignored or left untreated.

Seeking Treatment for Hearing Loss

Hearing health is important and at any point when a person notices the first sign of the inability to hear clearly should seek treatment. Treating hearing loss starts with a quick and easy hearing test. Our team at Hearing Consultants may begin treating hearing loss with a voice test where the patient covers one ear and the doctor whispers or speaks at lower levels to determine what the patient can hear. Another test that can be administered is an audible test. An auditory specialist will place headphones over the patient’s ears and begin playing different tones and pitches in each ear at different levels to determine at what level the patient is unable to hear.

After the initial hearing tests, we will go over options to help correct the patient’s hearing. There are several treatment options available that could benefit the different kinds of hearing issues. Fixing a hearing issue could be as simple as a hearing health provider clearing out built up earwax either by suction or by a small scraping tool.

If this is not the cause, a hearing aid may be fitted. There are two types of hearing aids. One the attaches behind the ear and one that snuggly fits inside the ear. A hearing aid collects sound and makes it louder for the person to hear. They can be adjusted to the person’s hearing needs.

In a more serious condition, a cochlear implant may be needed. A cochlear implant is an electronic device that is attached during an operation. This device is attached to the cochlea and it helps the damaged hairs by turning sounds into electrical messages that stimulate the brain directly. If someone has a cochlear implant, they have to wear a speech processor that looks like a hearing aid. A child must be at least one year old and have a severe hearing impairment before receiving a cochlear implant. 

Preventing Conductive Hearing Loss

Preventative ways to protect your hearing are, proper cleaning, keep noises and sounds at a normal level when watching TV or listening to music, and if you spend a great deal of time around loud noises or work in a loud environment, wear ear protection or ear plugs.

Hearing Consultants

If you’ve noticed changes in your hearing and struggle with communication, contact us today. We provide comprehensive hearing health services and we’re here to help!