What Causes Acquired Conductive Hearing Loss?

From earwax to ear infections, many issues can prevent sound from making its way through the outer and middle ear to the inner ear and on to the brain. Let’s explore some common causes of acquired conductive hearing loss.

Hearing device user with conductive hearing loss

Acquired vs. Congenital Hearing Loss

When someone is born with typical hearing but develops hearing loss after birth, this is referred to as acquired hearing loss. When a child is born with hearing loss, this is called congenital hearing loss. These two categories of hearing loss are based on when hearing loss occurs.

Where Hearing Loss Happens

Hearing loss can also be categorized by where it occurs in the ear. Conductive hearing loss occurs in the outer or middle ear and affects the ability of sound to reach the inner ear. Sensorineural hearing loss affects the inner ear. And mixed hearing loss is a combination of both types of hearing loss.

Common Causes of Acquired Conductive Hearing Loss

Acquired hearing loss can be caused by many different things, but here are some of the most common causes:

Something’s in the Way

If sound waves are blocked from reaching the eardrum, this can prevent or reduce the quality of hearing. The ear canal may be blocked by excessive buildup of earwax or by other foreign objects—objects that are in the ear canal even though they shouldn’t be. Just like earplugs reduce or block out sound, these ear canal blockages can prevent hearing.

Can’t Play a Broken Drum

For sound to travel from the outer ear to the middle ear, the eardrum needs to be able to vibrate. It can’t do this if it’s perforated, meaning there’s a hole or tear in it. Imagine trying to play a drum with a hole in it—it wouldn’t be very loud. And an eardrum with a hole in it is also not very effective.

Infections and Bad Vibrations

The middle ear, the space between the eardrum and the inner ear, is usually filled with air. When the tiny bones of the middle ear are surrounded by air, they can vibrate and transfer sound to the cochlea efficiently. Ear infections, however, can cause the middle ear to fill up with fluid. The bones of the middle ear can’t vibrate well when they are surrounded by fluid, and this results in poorer hearing.

A Sticky Situation

Otitis media with effusion, often referred to as glue ear, is another common cause of fluid in the middle ear. The fluid gets there when the eustachian tube—the canal that connects your middle ear with your nasal-sinus cavity—isn’t working properly. When it’s working correctly, fluid drains out of the middle ear through it. The eustachian tube also helps balance pressure changes—you probably know the feeling of your ears popping when you are in an airplane and the altitude changes.

Hard Problems

Two other common causes of conductive hearing loss are otosclerosis and exostosis. Otosclerosis is abnormal bone growth in the middle ear, which causes the bones there to be unable to vibrate and transfer sound waves efficiently. Exostosis, sometimes referred to as surfer’s ear, is abnormal bone growth in the ear canal. Similar to an excess buildup of earwax or a foreign object in the ear canal, this type of bone growth blocks some sound from entering the ear.

These are just some of the most common causes of conductive hearing loss. You can learn more about other causes of hearing loss on our website.
Solutions for Conductive Hearing Loss

Some of these causes of conductive hearing loss are temporary: maybe ADHEAR can help you hear until the issue is resolved. But if the problem is permanent, do not fear! MED-EL also offers an implantable bone conduction solution: BONEBRIDGE as well as an active middle ear implant: VIBRANT SOUNDBRIDGE. Find out more about solutions that can get you back to hearing your best.


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© MED-EL Medical Electronics. All rights reserved. The content on this website is for general informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Contact your doctor or hearing specialist to learn what type of hearing solution suits your specific needs. Not all products, features, or indications are approved in all countries.

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