The ear has three parts – outer, middle, and inner – through which sounds waves pass through. On reaching the inner ear, the sound waves are transmitted through a fluid medium which is carried through to the brain to produce “sound.” Hearing loss can be due to problems anywhere in this circuit – from the outer ear to nerve issues in the middle ear.
There are two main types of hearing loss
Conductive hearing loss, where problems in the outer or middle ear cause problem conducting sound waves into the inner ear
Sensorineural hearing loss, where there is a problem in the nervous portion of the hearing process
Conductive hearing loss occurs due to poor conduction of sound waves to the middle ear, where it is processed to perceive the sound. Conductive hearing loss can happen due to the following reasons:
- Wax: Excessive wax accumulated in the outer ear can prevent passage of sound into the middle ear
- Infection: The outer or middle ear could be infected, affecting passage of sound waves
- Tear in the eardrum: The eardrum is a membrane through which sound waves pass. A tear due to trauma or injury can hamper this process, leading to hearing loss.
- Impact: When there is a bang on the head, there could be temporary hearing loss due to disruption of the hearing system
- Hereditary: A lot of times, hearing loss is hereditary and an exact cause may not be traceable
- Ear tumor: Middle ear tumors can also cause conductive hearing loss
- Abnormal growth: Abnormal bone growth in the middle ear can cause blockage, leading to hearing loss
- Post-surgical: The ear is a highly complex structure, and while surgical corrections are being done to treat a condition, it is very likely that other parts can be damaged
In most of the conditions mentioned above, there are some sound waves which pass through, so conductive hearing loss is often partial, wherein the person can hear but it is faint. Very rarely, it is complete where the person goes completely deaf.
This would depend on the cause of the hearing loss.
- Clearing up the wax can lead to improved hearing
- A tear in the eardrum or fluid buildup would need surgical repair to restore hearing
- Infections might require treatment with antibiotics and pain killers
- Tumors or bone growths would also require surgical correction for restoring hearing
- For outer ear blocks, audiometry is done only after the blocks are cleared
- If post correction, the hearing is not completely restored, hearing aids can be used, which often results in complete restoration. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult an Ent Specialist.