Health Library
Conductive Hearing Loss

What is Conductive Hearing Loss?

Conductive hearing loss is caused by a problem in the outer or middle ear. Sound does not travel well through the outer ear canal, through the eardrum and to the tiny bones (ossicles) of the middle ear. Many conductive hearing losses can be treated with medications or surgery. An ear-nose-throat doctor (ENT) will decide which treatment is best for your child.

Limited access to sound caused by conductive hearing loss can make a difference in speech and language development. It can also affect school performance. In some cases, amplification devices or intervention services may be needed to help a child succeed.

Some of the common causes of conductive hearing loss include:

  • Fluid in the middle ear space
  • Ear infection
  • Build-up of earwax
  • Tear in the eardrum
  • Not having or malformation of the outer ear, ear canal, or middle ear

Treatment depends on the cause of the hearing loss. If the hearing loss is caused by fluid and if there are no other symptoms, the pediatrician will work on an appropriate treatment plan with you. Fluid in the ear can sometimes go away on its own without treatment.

The pediatrician may send your child to an audiologist and / or ear-nose-throat (ENT) doctor. Your child may need pressure-equalization (PE) tubes placed if antibiotic treatment does not work. Other medical conditions such as an eardrum tear or foreign object removal may need surgery.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Hearing Loss?

You may notice your child:

  • Is behind in talking or doesn’t talk clearly
  • Often asks others to repeat themselves, asks, “huh?” or “what?” or says they don’t hear you
  • Listens to electronics at very loud volumes
  • Has frequent ear infections
  • Speaks loudly all the time
  • Does not respond to their name, speech, or loud sounds
  • Becomes frustrated when trying to listen in background noise
  • Is always distracted
  • Prefers one ear over another, or complains they can only hear out of their “good ear”

Last Updated 09/2021

Reviewed By Virginia Bolster, AuD

Who treats this.

The Division of Audiology at Cincinnati Children’s is one of the largest pediatric audiology programs in the nation. Early intervention and active collaboration with your family can change the outcome for your child with a hearing problem.

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