Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss is caused by a problem in the outer or middle ear.  Sound does not travel efficiently through the outer ear canal to the eardrum and the tiny bones (ossicles) of the middle ear. You may have a harder time hearing quiet sounds or sounds from a distance. This type of hearing loss can often be corrected medically or surgically.

Common Causes

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
  • Absence or malformation of the outer ear, ear canal, or middle ear
inner ear

How Will You Know

You may notice your child having any of these issues:

  • Pulling or scratching at their ears more often than usual
  • Becoming tired more easily due to extra listening effort
  • Trouble with background noise and often misunderstanding directions
  • Inattentiveness
  • Asking to have the volume turned up (TV, iPad, radio, etc.)
  • Trouble with their speech and language development
    • An untreated, long-standing, or fluctuating conductive hearing loss can result in muffled hearing. This loss can lead to speech and language delays.


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 doctor may check your child’s ears for up to three months without prescribing antibiotics or other medicines. Oftentimes, any fluid in the ear will go away on its own and requires no treatment.

The doctor 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 body removal may require surgery.

What Can You Do to Help Your Child

At home:

  • Make sure your entire family washes their hands often to prevent the spread of germs and infection.
  • Have your child avoid touching his or her nose and eyes.
  • Keep your child away from places where people are smoking.

At school:

  • Talk with your child’s teachers to find ways to improve the listening in the classroom.
  • Ask that your child sit in the front of the class, away from noise sources. These may include air conditioners or open windows or doors.
  • Ask the teacher to repeat instructions or write them down.
  • Make sure the teacher’s face is visible to your child.

Last Updated 04/2020

Reviewed by Jenn Wright, 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.

Contact us.