Common Causes of Conductive Hearing Loss in Children

child having his ears checked

Common causes of hearing loss in children include middle ear infection.

Hearing loss in children can often be attributed to problems in the external ear, middle ear, eardrum, or ossicles. These can all cause conductive hearing loss, meaning sounds are not traveling correctly through the ear structure.

Hearing loss among children and adolescents is often unrecognized and undiagnosed since many of the symptoms are similar to those seen as normal childhood behaviors. Hallmarks like not reacting when spoken to can be seen as simply not paying attention.

Children with hearing loss often have difficulty at school, at home, and in social situations. If not addressed, hearing loss can lead to lack of confidence and self-esteem issues. However, according to the World Health Association, 60% of childhood hearing loss is preventable. Even if hearing loss is unavoidable, appropriate early interventions can help ensure that children with hearing loss reach their full potential.

Common causes of conductive hearing loss include:

  • Impacted wax in the external ear canal. Ear wax is normal and should never be aggressively cleaned out of the ear canal, only the shell of the ear. If large amounts of dark wax are visible, a hearing professional should be consulted to safely remove excess wax via irrigation, suction, or with special instruments and expertise.
  • A middle ear infection. Common in young children, this type of ear infection (also known as otitis media) is an inflammation of the middle ear which is often associated with a buildup of fluid. Middle ear infections, if left untreated, can result in mild to extreme hearing loss.
  • A perforated eardrum. Inserting something into the ear, a sporting injury, exposure to concussive or explosive noise, or head injury can all cause a perforated eardrum. This condition can be often be addressed surgically, with medication, or by specialized care instructions from an audiologist.
  • Otosclerosis.This is an abnormal bone growth in the middle ear. It is often (but not always) associated with repeated exposure to cold water. Children involved in water sports should wear customized earplugs to prevent this condition from manifesting.

If conductive hearing loss is suspected, an audiologist should be consulted.

Conductive hearing loss in children can often be attributed to problems in the external ear, middle ear, eardrum, or ossicles which result in sounds not traveling correctly through the ear structure.