Do things sound foggy, or really far away? This may be a sign of conductive hearing loss. Last week we introduced you to what is sensorineural hearing loss. In this post, we break down all-things conductive hearing loss, including what can cause it, what it sounds like, and treatment options.
Before starting to learn about conductive hearing loss, it can also help to get a quick overview of what sound is and how hearing works.
Ready? Ok, let’s begin!
What Is Conductive Hearing Loss?
Conductive hearing loss is due to any problem in the outer or middle ear which is preventing sound passing through to the cochlea. To briefly explain how sound travels through the ear: it first enters the outer ear and goes through the middle ear. After the middle ear, sound hits the inner ear where it is then sent via the auditory nerve to the brain.
Conductive hearing loss is when sound is being stopped in its journey through the middle ear. For someone with conductive hearing loss, their inner ear and outer ear can be totally healthy.
People overcome this hearing loss with various hearing solutions, including hearing aids, a middle ear implant, or a bone conduction implant. You can find out more in this helpful video on conductive hearing loss.
What Causes Conductive Hearing Loss?
There can be various reasons for conductive hearing loss, including infection, a damaged eardrum, family genetics, and head trauma. Conductive hearing loss can be permanent or temporary—for example an ear infection, wax, or something stuck in the ear.
When sound is traveling through the middle ear to its next destination—the inner ear—it is transmitted by three bones called the ossicles. These bones, called the malleus, incus and stapes, are the smallest bones in the entire human body. Conductive hearing loss can also occur if any of these bones are damaged or hardened, therefore blocking sound passing through.
What Does It Sound Like?
Conductive hearing loss can sound like your ear is unplugged: sounds from the outside can be difficult to hear, but other sounds like your own voice or chewing on food can be heard without any issues. You can simulate how conductive hearing loss sounds by wearing ear plugs or blocking your ears with your fingers and talking out loud.
Conductive hearing losses are usually mild or moderate in degree, ranging from 25 to 65 decibels. It can be difficult to self-diagnose as sounds become quieter, muffled or more distant, but are not usually distorted. There are many people who live with conductive hearing loss who don’t realize it or do not seek treatment, although help is available.
What Hearing Solutions Are There For Conductive Hearing Loss?
There are various ways for people with conductive hearing loss to improve their hearing, including hearing aids and hearing implants, such as BONEBRIDGE. BONEBRIDGE is a hearing implant that uses bone conduction technology to bypass the middle ear, enabling a person with mixed or conductive hearing loss, or single-sided deafness, to hear. The famous composer Ludwig van Beethoven had hearing loss and had his own method of bone conduction by using a rod. Beethoven would put one end of the rod between his teeth and the other end in the piano so that he could hear the vibrations through his mouth, and know what note he was playing. MED-EL’s BONEBRIDGE hearing implant works in a similar way, but without the rod. Instead, the BONEBRIDGE implant bypasses the blockage in the middle ear by sending vibrations through the bones of the skull, to send sound signals to the brain via the cochlea.
Similar to BONEBRIDGE is the ADHEAR system. ADHEAR also sends vibrations to your inner ear through the bones in your skull. But unlike BONEBRIDGE, ADHEAR isn’t an implant and so doesn’t require any surgery. ADHEAR simply sticks on behind your ear and can provide instant hearing—particularly useful if you only have temporary conductive hearing loss.
Another effective option for conductive hearing loss is the VIBRANT SOUNDBRIDGE Middle Ear Implant. As the name suggests, it is implanted into the middle ear. Part of the implant is connected directly to or beside one of the ossicles. Vibrations are used to create sound information which is sent to the cochlea. Basically, the VIBRANT SOUNDBRIDGE replaces whichever middle ear bone is damaged or not working properly.
Where To Find More Information
If you think you may have a hearing loss, it is always best to speak with a medical or hearing professional to first get your hearing tested and determine what level of hearing loss you have. They will then be able to talk about what options would be best for you. Your local MED-EL Representative can help put you in touch with a hearing professional—you can find their details here!
Like this post all about conductive hearing loss? Find out more on the science behind how hearing works!
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