Conductive Hearing Loss Treatments
Conductive hearing loss is a type of hearing loss that occurs when the passage of sound waves to the inner ear is blocked in the outer or middle ear.
The inner ear is responsible for sending sound signals to the brain for interpretation. But before this can happen, external sound needs to be collected from the outer ear’s environment by the outer ear and transmitted through the ear canal to the middle ear.
The middle ear then transfers this sound signal to the inner ear. If the outer or middle ear is blocked, this natural flow of sound to the inner ear is blocked, and this is what is referred to as conductive hearing loss.
Even if the sound can pass through the outer ear into the ear canal, the sound level is often reduced on its way to the cochlea in the inner ear. This is why people with conductive hearing loss often have problems with the loudness of sound.
The passage of sound from the outer and middle ear to the inner ear can be caused by blockages or damage to the ear’s anatomical structures.
Common causes of conductive hearing loss are earwax blockage, benign tumors and growths, fluid accumulation in the ear, eustachian tube dysfunction, microtia, and a ruptured eardrum.
Symptoms of conductive hearing loss include; hearing muffled sounds, asking for repetition, asking others to speak loudly or slowly, turning up the television volume, difficulty having telephone conversations, difficulty hearing in crowded places, and difficulty hearing voices from a distance.
Depending on the cause of the cause, conductive hearing loss can be temporary or permanent. The severity of the hearing loss is also dependent on the root cause.
In most cases, when the root cause is identified and treated, hearing returns to normal. In cases where the underlying cause cannot be treated, hearing aids can be used to enhance hearing.
Conductive Hearing Loss Treatments
As already stated, most cases of conductive hearing loss can be treated. The treatment for conductive hearing loss can be grouped into pharmaceutical treatment, surgical treatment, and supportive care. Each method is chosen based on the nature and location of the cause of the hearing loss.
In this section, we will be examining the different treatments for conductive hearing loss. There is no one-size fit all form of treatment for conductive hearing loss; rather, treatment is prescribed based on the underlying cause. For instance, treatment for conductive hearing loss caused by earwax blockage is different from conductive hearing loss caused by a ruptured eardrum.
We will be outlining the different treatments for each common cause of conductive hearing loss for ease of understanding.
Treatment of Conductive Hearing Loss Caused by Fluid in the Ear
In most cases, fluid in the ear does not require treatment; the fluid naturally drains on its own within a few weeks. But under certain conditions, treatment will be prescribed, and the type of treatment is dependent on some factors.
If the ear’s fluid has lasted for about six weeks, a hearing test will be conducted, and antibiotics will be prescribed.
Antibiotics can also treat fluid in the ear that has lasted for twelve weeks. If a hearing test is conducted and there is significant hearing loss, the doctor may place tubes in the ear to drain out the fluid.
In severe cases where the fluid in the ear has been present for about four to six months, the doctor will need to place ear tubes surgically even in the absence of hearing loss.
In some cases, fluid in the ear may or may not be accompanied by an infection. If there is no ear infection, using antibiotics is useless. Some antibiotics like antihistamines can affect the drainage of the auditory tube. Therefore they are not recommended.
If, however, there is an ear infection, your doctor will prescribe the right antibiotic for you. Some antibiotics that your doctor may recommend are Amoxil( amoxicillin), Ciprodex ((ciprofloxacin/dexamethasone) suspension, Ocuflox (ofloxacin) solution, Augmentin (amoxicillin/potassium clavulanate), Acetasol HC (hydrocortisone/acetic acid) solution, Cortisporin (neomycin/polymyxin b/hydrocortisone) suspension or solution, Ciloxan (ciprofloxacin) solution, Ciprodex (ciprofloxacin/dexamethasone) suspension, Floxin (ofloxacin) solution, and Cipro HC (ciprofloxacin/hydrocortisone) suspension.
If you are experiencing pain or fever as a result of the infection, your doctor may prescribe painkillers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
Children with fluid in the ear who have developmental delays may require early treatment. Waiting for the fluid to clear up on its own may be harmful to the child. If the child doesn't have any developmental problems, waiting for the fluid to drain on its own is not harmful.
Hearing often returns to normal when the fluid has been drained out of the ear naturally or with surgical intervention.
Treatment for Conductive Hearing Loss Caused by Ruptured Eardrum
Ruptured or perforated eardrums don't often require any treatments because they heal on their own within a few weeks. If, however, the tear in the eardrum doesn't heal by itself, any of the treatments below may be used.
This is a patch made of paper or other materials. An ENT specialist does the patching. The patch aims to speed up the healing process.
Before the patch is placed over the year, a chemical is applied to the edges of the tear. This chemical also hastens the healing process. More than one ear patch may be needed before the hole heals completely.
Surgery is often recommended if the patch did not heal the tear. In some cases, you may not need to use a patch before the surgery. Upon examination, your doctor will be able to tell if a patch can heal the year.
The surgical process for perforated eardrums is known as tympanoplasty. This entails the grafting or patching of your tissue on the eardrum to seal up the hole or tear.
The procedure is quite simple, and You will be able to go home right after it is done.
As already stated, a ruptured eardrum can get healed without any treatment. However, there are ways you can protect your eardrum and speed up the healing process. Home remedies and lifestyle changes are often recommended.
Here are some things you can do:
- Avoid cleaning your ears with cotton buds, Bobby pins, and other objects.
- Avoid blowing your nose. The pressure that is created in your ear when blowing your nose can open already healing tears.
- Keep your ear dry always. This will prevent any dirt or fluid from getting to the eardrum and infecting it. You can keep your ears dry when bathing by placing a ball of cotton coated with petroleum jelly or wearing a waterproof silicone earplug in your ear.
- Avoid exposing your ear to loud noise.
If there is an infection alongside the perforated eardrum, your doctor I'll prescribe an antibiotic. Treating the infection can hasten the healing process.
Treatment for Conductive Hearing Loss Caused by Eustachian Tube Dysfunction
A Eustachian tube dysfunction is often caused by a cold, an allergy, or the flu. When you treat the underlying cause of the dysfunction, the eustachian tube begins to function normally.
If you have Eustachian tube dysfunction, exercising your jaw by yawning, swallowing, and chewing your gum can help relieve the feeling of fullness in your ears. You can also take a deep breath, pinch your nostrils closed, and blow with your mouth shut.
Feeding babies or giving them a pacifier will encourage swallowing and relieve the ear’s feeling of fullness.
In some cases, these simple exercises may not be efficient in fixing the dysfunction. You will need to visit a doctor. One of the following may be done by the doctor to fix the dysfunction.
- Steroid nasal spray or an antihistamine may be taken to reduce the allergic response.
- A small tube will be implanted in the eardrums. These tubes will help drain the built-up fluid out of the middle ear. The tubes can stay in the ear for about eighteen months and then fall out naturally. This procedure is simple and takes about five minutes to complete.
- A decongestant will be used to reduce the swelling of the lining of the eustachian tubes. The decongestant does this by constricting blood vessels and reducing the swelling on the lining of the nose.
- A surgical procedure is known as myringotomy. The doctor will make a tiny incision in the eardrum and suctions out the fluid in the middle ear. The incision is left open to allow the swelling in the Eustachian tube to heal. The incision in the eardrum heals within two to three days.
- Balloon dilation system
Your doctor will use a catheter to insert a small balloon through your nose into the eustachian tube. The balloon is inflated to open a pathway for mucus and air to flow through the tube. This restores the eustachian tube to normal.
Treatment for Conductive Hearing Loss Caused by Earwax Blockage
If you have conductive hearing loss caused by the accumulation of earwax in your ear, you shouldn't try to remove the wax by yourself. Doing this may push the earwax further in your ear canal and cause more damage to your hearing.
However, with the supervision or guidance of a doctor, you may be able to get rid of the earwax blockage at home by doing the following:
- Softening the Earwax
You can soften the earwax using over-the-counter wax softening drops. You can also use hydrogen peroxide, glycerin, mineral oil, baby oil, and carbamide peroxide to soften the earwax.
Once the wax is softened, it will flow out of the ear.
- Ear Irrigation
Ear irrigation is only advisable for people who do not have an ear injury. Attempting to irrigate your ear when you have a ruptured or perforated eardrum can cause an infection or hearing loss. If you recently had a medical procedure done on your ear, it is also not advisable.
- There are over-the-counter products for ear irrigation that you can use. To get the best result, follow these steps:
Sit or stand with your head in an upright position.
Hold your outer ear and pull it gently.
Using a syringe, inject a stream of body-temperature water into your ear.
Tip your head to allow the water to drain out.
If you are unable to get rid of the earwax blockage by yourself, your doctor can remove the accumulated wax by irrigation, suction, or using a curette.
Your hearing will return to normal after the earwax has been removed.
Treatment for Conductive Hearing Loss Caused by Microtia
Microtia is a congenital abnormality or malformation of the outer and inner ear. It is one of the causes of conductive hearing loss that may require surgery. Some parents may decide not to treat tye microtia. Treatment options include the following:
1. Autologous Auricular Construction
This surgery entails taking cartilage from the child's ear and using it to plant a new ear on the affected side. The reason tissue from the child is used so that the ear can heal itself when it is injured.
This procedure is often conducted when the child is about six years old or more. This is because, at this age, the child is old enough to have cartilage to spare.
Also, the unaffected ear would have grown to reach its adult size at that age so that the new ear being created can match the size of the normal one.
Depending on the severity of the microtia, autologous constructions require three procedures. These procedures are scheduled six months apart. This will enable the child to heal.
During the first procedure, the cartilage that will be used to build the new war is removed. The second procedure entails the refining and repositioning of the new earlobe.
Finally, during the third procedure, the new ear will be lifted for better alignment, and necessary finishing touches will be made. If the child needs surgery in the middle ear, it will be performed after the third procedure.
Even though the new ear may not look like the unaffected ear, it will still function normally. It will also improve the child's appearance and enable him to wear sunshades or eyeglasses.
2. Surgically Implanted Hearing Devices
Conductive hearing loss caused by microtia can also be treated by using a cochlear implant. It is implanted into the bone above and behind the ear. When the point of attachment has healed, a processor that helps the child hear sounds is attached to the site. The processor helps the child hear by stimulating the nerves in the inner ear.
Asides from cochlear implants, Vibration-inducing devices can also be used. These devices are worn on the scalp and magnetically connected to surgically placed implants. The implant is connected to the middle ear and sends vibrations to the inner ear.
Even though surgically placed implants do not create scar tissues and require minimal healing, they have side effects. The side effects include; tinnitus, vertigo, nerve injury, leaking of the fluid that surrounds the brain, skin infection, build-up of earwax, and worsening of hearing loss.
3. Prosthetic External Ear or Ear Prosthesis
This is an artificial ear made from a synthetic material that can be attached using an adhesive or surgically implanted to the side of your child's ear. Most prosthetics look very real, and the procedure for placing them is not as invasive as the other treatment options.
Ear prosthesis is detachable and is perfect for children that are unable to undergo reconstruction. However, these prostheses need to be replaced from time to time.
Another disadvantage of it is that some children may have skin sensitivity to the adhesive used to attach the ear to the body. It also requires daily care.
4. Medpor Graft Surgery
This procedure is similar to autologous auricular construction. The difference is that instead of using rib cartilage from the child, synthetic material is implanted. Children from three years can undergo this procedure. Only one procedure is required. Scalp tissue is used to cover the implant.
The duration of Medpor implants is not yet known, so surgeons do not often recommend it. Also, because the implant is synthetic, it cannot be incorporated into surrounding tissues; this means that the implant can be lost due to trauma or injury. It also has a high risk of causing infections.
Treating Conductive Hearing Loss with Hearing Aids
Hearing aids are battery-powered electronic devices that are designed to improve hearing. Hearing aids are not often prescribed for people with conductive hearing loss because the underlying cause of conductive hearing loss is often known. And once it is fixed, hearing returns to normal.
However, in some cases, conductive hearing loss may not be fully reversed. In such cases, the conductive hearing loss patient may benefit from a hearing aid. Also, if the Corti organ in the cochlea is functioning properly, a hearing aid may help transmit sound through the outer and middle ear to the inner ear.
Most hearing aids are small enough to be worn in or behind the ear, and their basic function is to make sounds louder.
Hearing aids have three major components: the microphone, which is responsible for picking sounds from the environment, an amplifier that makes the sound louder, and a receiver. The receiver sends the amplified sounds into the ear.
Hearing aids are medical devices and should only be fitted by an audiologist. After proper examination, the audiologist will determine what type of hearing aid you need and fit it to meet your specific hearing needs. There are no one-size-fits-all hearing aids. All hearing aids are customized.
Hearing aids come in different styles and can be fitted in different places. Here are the common hearing aid styles.
Ear Canal Hearing Aids
These types of hearing aids are fitted inside the ear canal. Completely-in-Canal hearing aids fall under this category. They are very small and hidden in the ear canal. Because of how small they are, canal hearing aids are hard to adjust or remove and are not ideal for children.
In-The-Ear (ITE) Hearing Aids
These types are fired inside the ear. They are ideal for people with mild to severe conductive hearing loss. In-the-ear hearing aids are not ideal for children whose ears are still growing.
Behind-The-Ear (BTE) Hearing Aids
These types are fitted being ear. External sound is directed to the ear through a narrow tube that goes into the ear canal.
Receiver-In-Canal or Receiver-In-The-Ear Hearing Aids
These types of hearing aids are fitted behind the ear but connected to a receiver in the ear canal through a tiny wire. With this type of hearing aid, low-frequency sounds can enter the ear naturally, and high-frequency sounds are amplified.
As already stated, conductive hearing loss is not often treated directly. The solution often lies in treating the underlying cause, and that's what we have taken you through in this post.
All of the treatment options we have examined in this post should only be carried out by or under a qualified ENT doctor’s supervision. Trying any of these treatments without the right medical guidance can worsen your symptoms and, in some cases, cause permanent damage.
Have you had conductive hearing loss? What was the cause, and what treatment options were used?
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