What causes conductive hearing loss?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Conductive hearing loss can have a number of causes. Usually, the loss is the result of a physical blockage, like earwax, in the outer or middle ear. Infections and allergies can also cause fluid or pus to build up inside the middle ear, halting the transmission of sound waves into the inner ear and causing difficulty hearing. Less common causes of conductive hearing loss include cholesteatoma, a condition that causes benign tumors to grow in the ear canal, and damage to the ear drum itself.

David M. Vernick, MD
Ear, Nose & Throat (Otolaryngology)
Conductive hearing loss is caused by something that blocks or hinders sound waves from passing through the outer or middle ear. The source of the obstruction can be any number of things: earwax, an accumulation of fluid, inflammation from an ear infection, a cyst or other abnormal growth, or a foreign body that became lodged accidentally in the ear.

Conductive hearing loss can also be caused by disorders of the ossicles, such as otosclerosis (abnormal bony growth that keeps one of the three tiny bones in the middle ear from moving, thereby preventing sound waves from passing through the ear). The eardrum itself can bring on conductive hearing loss if it becomes stretched or bruised from unequal air pressure in the middle ear, as might happen during changes in atmospheric pressure in an airplane. Sometimes the blockage is caused by a birth defect in which the ears don't develop properly. Conductive hearing loss is often treatable with medicine or surgery. One common cause – earwax – can be removed with over the counter kits or by your doctor.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.