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A to Z: Hearing Loss, Conductive

May also be called: CHL

Conductive hearing loss is caused by interference in the transmission of sound to the inner ear resulting from a mechanical problem in the outer ear or middle ear.

More to Know

The outer ear consists of the part of the ear that's visible on the outside of the head (pinna and auricle), as well as the ear canal, a hollow passage that leads to the eardrum. The eardrum separates the outer ear from the middle ear, which consists of three tiny bones and an air-filled cavity the size of a pea. The outer ear funnels sound waves toward the eardrum, and the middle ear converts the waves to vibrations that it passes on to the inner ear.

A number of conditions affecting the outer ear or middle ear can interrupt the way sound waves are conducted through the ear and cause hearing loss.

Infants and young children frequently develop conductive hearing loss due to ear infections. Other common causes include cerumen (earwax) impaction, head injuries, foreign objects in the ear canal, ruptured eardrums, and defects in the ear that are present at birth.

Treatment for conductive hearing loss involves treating the condition affecting the outer ear or middle ear. In many cases, treating the underlying cause can reverse hearing loss.

Keep in Mind

Conductive hearing loss is usually mild, temporary, and treatable with medicine or surgery. The sooner treatment is started, the more effective it is, so a doctor should be consulted as soon as symptoms appear. In some cases, the cure is as simple as flushing impacted earwax out of the ear canal or treating an ear infection.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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