What is Conductive Hearing Loss?

Reviewed by Dr. Porter on July 22, 2020

Hearing is precious and no one wants to be left out or “left in the dark” due to an auditory problem. Sadly, close to 40 million American adults have some form of auditory loss. Approximately 15% of American adults aged 18 and over report some auditory problems. That makes it one of the most common health challenges that Americans face, according to the National Institutes of Health. The causes include:

  • The natural process of aging.
  • Heredity factors.
  • Prolonged exposure to loud noises.
  • Illnesses, including Meniere’s disease, middle ear infections, and Otosclerosis.
  • Trauma to the ear or head.
  • Drug-related causes including aminoglycoside antibiotics, some diuretics, and some chemotherapy drugs.


Additionally, there are some possibly unexpected risk factors including sleep apnea, excessive alcohol use, iron deficiency, mumps, chronic stress, and vaping.


There are three types of auditory loss: conductive, sensorineural, and mixed.

How Does Conductive Hearing Loss Occur?

The human ear is composed of three parts: the outer, middle, and inner ear. Conduction loss occurs when outside sound is unable to reach the inner ear. This condition can arise in the outer ear or middle ear.

Causes affecting the outer ear can include a narrowing of the ear canal, wax buildup, growth of bone-like protrusions, a condition described as “swimmer’s ear,” and obstructions caused by foreign objects being inserted in the ear.

Causes affecting the middle ear can include a breach in the eardrum caused by an injury, ear infections, or possibly rapid and extreme air pressure changes. Additional causes can include a build-up of fluid in the middle ear, blockages in the Eustachian tube connecting the middle ear to the back of the nose and throat, abnormal growths in the middle ear, or a break in the middle ear bones caused by physical trauma.

What is Conductive Hearing Loss - How Does Conductive Hearing Loss Occur

What is the Difference Between Conductive Hearing Loss and Sensorineural Deafness?

Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the inner ear. This can be damage to the tiny hair-like cells of the inner ear or damage to the auditory nerve itself which blocks or weakens the transfer of signals from the inner ear to the brain. This obviously, is a more serious problem than other types of auditory loss. In comparison, the latter means that sound is not reaching the inner ear, typically due to an obstruction or some type of trauma.

Causes of sensorineural loss can include heart diseases and diabetes, mumps, Meniere’s disease, drugs that are toxic to auditory health, genetic factors influencing the way the inner ear is formed, aging, severe head trauma, extended exposure to loud noises, explosions, cancerous growths in the inner ear, and traumatic injuries that damage the inner ear or the auditory nerve.

How Do You Know if You Have Conductive Loss?

An individual who has conductive-based loss primarily has challenges with the overall loudness of sounds, but not the clarity, as represented by turning up the volume of the TV or radio for easier listening. Signs of conductive-based loss are:

  • Easier to hear out of one ear versus the other.
  • Difficulty understanding phone conversations. Conversations in general may be hard to hear.
  • Some pain in one or both ears.
  • General muffling of sound.
  • A feeling that one’s own voice sounds somewhat different.
  • A feeling of pressure in one or both ears.
  • A strange odor from the ear, or fluids leaking from the ear.
  • Issues with maintaining proper balance.

What is Conductive Hearing Loss - How Do You Know If You Have Conductive Hearing Loss

Can Conductive Hearing Loss Be Cured or is it Permanent?

Conductive loss may be temporary or permanent, depending on the cause. However, most common causes are easily diagnosed and readily treatable, for example, removal of earwax buildup, treatment of chronic ear infections, or removing a foreign object in the ear.

The first step for proper treatment is to seek help and obtain the right diagnosis. A family doctor can review your situation and an expert audiologist can provide many effective solutions.

Let Us Determine the Extent of Your Auditory Loss

Great auditory health is a wonderful gift that is so essential to life, work, family enjoyment, and all-around pleasurable life functions. So, it is important not to ignore or try to self-diagnose and self-treat ongoing difficulties.

For great results and exceptional service, contact the professionals at Harbor Audiology & Auditory services with convenient Washington Stake locations in Gig Harbor, Tacoma, Silverdale, Sequim, and Port Angeles, WA.

We provide expert diagnostic auditory tests, tinnitus treatments, and a wide range of auditory aid products. We’ll make sure you’re getting the auditory aid solution that’s right for you. We’ve been in business a long time, giving you confidence in our services. We accept most insurance providers and will work with the VA for Veterans. We also have extended hours for nights and weekends.

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