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Conductive hearing loss (CHL) is very different than sensorineural hearing loss. Sensorineural is a loss of hearing due to damage to the tiny hair present in the ear canal. CHL is due to some kind of physical blockage in the ear that leads to sound reduction to the cochlea. It is possible to have both types of loss at the same time known as mixed hearing impairment, so it is important to get seen by a doctor as soon as possible because some issues are time-sensitive. Such as a ruptured eardrum which can leave scarring behind. Untreated hearing loss can have a detrimental effect on your immune system. Hearing health is vital to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Signs of Conductive Hearing Loss
The signs of conductive hearing loss may present in the following ways:
- The sensation that you are hearing your voice as if you are underwater.
- A significant build-up of wax in the ear canal.
- Muffled sounds.
- Frequent ear infections.
- Unequal sound reception.
- An odor emanating from the ear.
- Pain in one or both ears.
- Fluid draining from the ear.
- Pain and/or tenderness in the ear.
The symptoms experienced depend on the area of the ear affected and the severity of the issue. Individuals suffering from CHL will likely turn up the sound on the TV, or radio to compensate for a reduction in hearing ability. All this does is temporarily mask untreated hearing loss.
Causes of Conductive Hearing Loss
Causes of conductive hearing loss include:
- Earwax buildup is the most common cause of CHL as well as the easiest to treat.
- Water or other fluid builds up in the middle ear.
- Otitis externa (swimmer’s ear) is an infection that develops when you try to remove water from the ear too aggressively with a cotton swab.
- Growth of skin cells that present in the middle ear called Cholesteatoma. Its growing causes pressure to develop in the inner ear which in turn causes pain.
- Abnormal bone growth in or near the middle ear. This is called otosclerosis.
- Perforation of the tympanic membrane.
- The presence of a foreign body such as a bean can become lodged in the middle ear and begin growing. Other possible foreign bodies include beads, wood, rocks, or even a bug and/or bug cocoon. This list is, of course, incomplete, it is just a suggestion of things of a size that will fit in the ear.
- Bony, non-cancerous growths often associated with cold water swimming.
- Eardrum collapse is caused by an imbalance of pressure in the middle ear usually caused by a compromised eustachian tube.
- Aural atresia which is a deformation of the outer ear canal.
- Damage to the tiny bones of the middle ear due to trauma retracted eardrum, or infection.
Seeking Treatment for Conductive Hearing Loss
Treating hearing loss depends on the root problem. There may be more than one thing wrong which is why it is important to see a hearing specialist achieve the best solution for your hearing health.
Treatments for CHL include:
Earwax removal can be done at home, but it is safer to have someone that can see what they are doing to extract the wax. If you have someone willing to do this, doing it at home could save you some money. There are several cleaners and earwax extractors available in most stores.
A hearing test is in order if you do not believe that your loss of hearing is due to earwax. An evaluation from your doctor will suggest what kind of treatment plan you need.
Hearing aids are a very common solution for loss of hearing. Often a hearing aid that you place in the ear by yourself will suffice. Other times it may require surgery to implant a hearing device.
Surgery should be a last resort. There are several conditions that surgery is the only solution. These conditions include Otosclerosis, Perforated eardrum, severe retraction of the eardrum, boney lesions, aural atresia, or damage to the bones of the middle ear.
These are listed by invasiveness. Removal of earwax should always be your starting point. Treating hearing loss sooner rather than later can keep complications from the root cause to a minimum. Hearing is the first of the senses to wake up in the morning. This could be just as important to safety as it is to interact with others. Preserving your hearing is vital. Get it checked.
Desert Valley Audiology
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!