Conductive Hearing Loss & The Elderly



Hearing loss is a reduction in sound sensitivity due to an abnormality anywhere in the auditory system. Conductive Hearing Loss occurs specifically when an abnormality of the tympanic membrane (eardrum), middle ear, or outer ear interrupts the passage of sound waves to the inner ear.

"Approximately 28 million Americans have a hearing impairment. Hearing loss is one of the most prevalent chronic health conditions in the United States, affecting people of all ages, in all segments of the population, and across all socioeconomic levels. Hearing impairment increases with age: About one-third of Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing problems. About half the people who are 85 and older have hearing loss." - National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health



Do I Have Hearing Loss?

  • Are you sometimes unsure about what others near you have just said?
  • Do you have trouble hearing over the telephone?
  • Do you turn up the TV volume to a level at which others complain?
  • Are conversations harder to follow when there is background noise?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should contact a physician who can perform the appropriate tests to determine if you are, in fact, experiencing hearing loss.

Note: There are three main types of hearing loss: Sensorineural, Conductive, and Mixed Hearing Loss. This website will focus on Conductive Hearing Loss. If you want to learn more about other types of hearing loss, visit National Institutes on Deafness and other Communication Disorders website.


Possible Causes of Conductive Hearing Loss:

Any of these abnormalities can cause a reduced functioning of the tympanic membrane or reduced friction of the three tiny bones of the ear (malleus, incus, stapes), which can severely reduce hearing sensitivity. If a physician can determine the cause of the conductive hearing loss and remove and/or treat it, hearing can usually be restored.

Hearing loss can make you feel depressed, lonely, and helpless. Those around you may feel that you are withdrawn socially and emotionally. Fortunately, there is treatment for most hearing disorders. Start by seeing your doctor.

Hearing Loss Evaluations:

A physical exam evaluates the ear canal and tympanic membrane for visible obstructions.

Audiometry presents numerous tone or speech stimuli to each ear. This test is especially useful in determining the level of hearing loss experienced by a patient.

Air conduction tests confirm the efficacy of the inner ear and central pathways necessary for auditory perception. Bone conduction tests can distinguish between sensorineural and conductive hearing losses by using a tuning fork that vibrates against the skull.

The Reinne Test, specifically, compares the air conduction and bone conduction tests. If conductive hearing loss is present, the bone conduction stimulus will be perceived louder than the air conduction stimulus. This test is capable of detecting very sensitive cases of mild conductive hearing losses.

Treatment Options:

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Diagram of Human Ear Communication Tips


Helpful Links: Rated

The Homepage of Hearing Healthcare - This website is one of the most comprehensive that I found about hearing loss. Plentiful resources on hearing aids. Be sure to check out the online hearing test and testimonials of hearing impaired individuals and families.

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: Hearing Loss - This specific page gives a succinct overview of all types of hearing loss. Good page to begin learning about hearing impairment.

Hearing Loss Among Elderly Article - Brief summation of research statistics showing that the elderly are under diagnosed for hearing impairments. The related links provided are worth a look.

Hearing Aid Price and Rating Guide - Great resource for comparison shopping. Provides information on the leading hearing aid manufacturers (Phonak, Interton, Widex). Brochure also provides in depth information about general hearing loss. You have to provide email information to download the guide, so beware of spam!


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