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What is conductive hearing loss?

Conductive hearing loss occurs in the outer or middle part of the ear, where sound is converted to vibrations and sent to the inner ear. This type of hearing loss refers to issues with transferring sound waves (due to a blockage or other impediment.)

Excessive ear wax, a ruptured ear drum, or even ear infections can result in conductive hearing loss.

Hearing loss types

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What causes conductive hearing loss?

Conductive hearing loss is a type of hearing loss that is often easily identifiable. The following causes have been associated with this type of hearing loss:

  • Wax build-up
  • Fluid in the ear
  • Ear infections
  • Damage to the ear drum
  • Trauma
  • Diseases such as osteoporosis

What is the difference between conductive and sensorineural hearing loss?

Hearing loss is divided into the following categories (based on which part of the ear is damaged): sensorineural, conductive, and mixed hearing loss.

Conductive hearing loss is usually the result of a disruption to the sound's path as it travels from the outer/middle ear to the inner ear, while sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the delicate nerve fibres of the inner ear become damaged.

Mixed hearing loss occurs when both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss occur in the same ear.

Sensorineural hearing loss

3 signs of conductive hearing loss

Conductive hearing loss is sometimes accompanied by pain or discomfort - or the feeling that "something is wrong" in the ear. Other common signs of conductive hearing loss may include:

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1. Speech and other sounds seem distant or muffled
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2. Pain, pressure, or discharge in the ear
Image shows woman holding ear  with her hand due to discomfort
3. A feeling of "fullness" in the ear
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Treatment for conductive hearing loss

Time may be all that is needed to recover from less severe cases of conductive hearing loss. In other cases, conductive hearing loss can be treated medically in one of the following ways:

  • Antibiotics and anti-fungal medications can treat hearing loss caused by an ear infection
  • Surgery may be recommended to repair damages to the eardrum or middle ear, if present
  • Hearing aids may also be an option if other forms of treatment have not been sufficient
  • Bone anchored hearing systems

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Nimi Daya Naran head shot
Nimi Daya Naran - Audiologist and Head of Medical Services & Graduate Development ANZ
 BA(Psych), M.Clin.Aud., MAudSA(CCP)

Nimi is an experienced Audiologist whose clinical career and dedication to the Audiology industry has afforded her many opportunities, where she has had the ability to specialise in paediatrics, adult rehabilitation, complex adult rehabilitation and tinnitus. Through these specialities she recognised her passion for clinical excellence and educating others. 

Today, she draws on that experience in her work as the Head of Medical Services and Graduate Development. Her current role allows her to raise hearing health awareness amongst general practitioners. As well as contribute to the development of clinicians in their early career, to ensure they have a strong clinical foundation as they begin their journey in the Audiology industry. She has also developed initiatives to improve clinical service delivery and client care. More recently she has established the Audika Specialist Referral Network, an initiative to ensure clients who could benefit from implantable technology are given access to these services. As well as ensuring these clients are supported throughout their implant journey.