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How Earwax Can Cause Permanent Hearing Loss

Jan 29, 2016 How Earwax Can Cause Permanent Hearing Loss

Did you know that a simple ear blockage could lead to permanent hearing loss? Find out how this happens and what you can do to prevent it.

A new study researched the long-term effects of conductive hearing loss. The Eaton-Peabody Laboratories at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary conducted the study to find out whether temporary hearing loss caused by things like chronic ear infections or earwax buildup could lead to permanent hearing impairment. The results of this animal study could lead to better hearing for humans.

What Is Conductive Hearing Loss?

Conductive hearing loss occurs when there is a blockage between the ear canal and the inner ear, preventing sound transmission. It can be caused by something as simple as earwax buildup, an ear infection, or an abnormal bone growth in the middle ear. Conductive hearing loss can cause ear pain, muffled or diminished sounds and a feeling of fullness in your ears.

How Does Conductive Hearing Loss Affect Hearing?

Conductive hearing loss affects the working of the middle ear, preventing sounds from being passed through to the inner ear, where they are converted to electrical signals that get sent to the brain.

A Temporary Impairment Can Lead To Permanent Hearing Loss

The study looked at mice with conductive hearing loss in one ear, and found that when this temporary impairment wasn’t addressed over the course of a year, it led to permanent damage in the inner ear. The mice experienced hearing loss that is similar to age-related hearing loss and noise-induced hearing loss – impairments that are not reversible.

Changes To The Inner Ear

The lead researcher from Harvard Medical School said, “After a year of sound deprivation, we observed dramatic changes in the inner ear, notably a significant loss of the synaptic connections through which the sensory cells send their electrical signals to the brain.”

Don’t Rely On Your “Good Ear”

Many adults have conductive hearing loss in just one ear, and instead of seeking treatment for the cause of their temporary impairment, they use their “good ear” while waiting for the issue to resolve itself. This study indicates that delaying or forgoing treatment could lead to permanent hearing loss, so rather than take a “wait and see” approach, have the issue taken care of by a physician or audiologist immediately.

"Our findings suggest that audiologists and physicians should advocate for early intervention and treat these middle ear conditions," the lead researcher said.

Seek Treatment Early

If you suffer from ear pain, muffled hearing or a feeling of fullness in your ears, visit a physician or an audiologist as soon as possible. Using your “good ear” while waiting for the problem to resolve could leave you with a “bad ear” for life.


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