Will my Hearing Loss be Permanent After an Ear Infection?

Woman recovers her hearing after an ear infection and listens to her grandaughter whisper something in her ear.

Otitis media is the medical name for what you more than likely call an ear infection. Ear infections are especially prevalent after a cold or sinus infection and they don’t only affect children but adults too. You can even get an ear infection if you have a bad tooth.

Hearing loss is one of the primary signs or symptoms of an infection inside the middle ear. But is it going to last forever? To come up with a complete answer can be fairly complex. Ear infections have a lot of things taking place. You should understand how the damage caused by ear infections can end up affecting your hearing.

Otitis Media, Exactly What is it?

Basically, otitis media is an infection of the middle ear. It could possibly be any kind of microorganism causing the infection but bacteria is the most common.

The primary way an infection is specified is by what part of the ear it occurs in. Otitis externa, otherwise known as swimmer’s ear, is an infection of the pinna or outer ear. An inner ear infection, otherwise known as labyrinthitis is brought about by bacteria in the cochlea.

The middle ear consists of the area behind the eardrum but in front of the cochlea. This area contains the three ossicles, or tiny bones, that vibrate the membranes of the inner ear. The eardrum will often actually break because of the pressure from this type of infection, which is likely to be really painful. That pressure is also the reason why you don’t hear very well. The infectious material accumulates and finally blocks the ear canal enough to interfere with the movement of sound waves.

The signs of a middle ear infection in an adult include:

  • Drainage from the ear
  • Pain in the ear
  • Diminished ability to hear

For most people, hearing comes back in time. Hearing will return after the pressure dissipates allowing the ear canal to open back up. This will only happen when the infection gets better. Sometimes there are complications, however.

Repeated Ear Infections

Ear infections affect most people at least once in their life. For others, the problem becomes chronic, so they have infections over and over. Because of complications, these people’s hearing loss is more serious and can possibly become permanent.

Conductive Hearing Loss From Chronic Ear Infections

Conductive hearing loss can be brought on by chronic ear infections. When this occurs, the sound waves going to the inner ear are not loud enough. The ear has components along the canal that amplify the sound wave so that when it gets to the tiny hair cells of the inner ear, it is strong enough to cause a vibration. With a conductive hearing loss, something changes along that route and the sound isn’t amplified as much.

When you have an ear infection, bacteria are not just laying in your ear doing nothing. The mechanisms that amplify sound waves are decomposed and eaten by the bacteria. Usually, this kind of damage involves the eardrum and the tiny little bones. It doesn’t take very much to destroy these fragile bones. These bones will never come back once they are gone. When this takes place your ears don’t heal themselves. In some cases, surgeons can install prosthetic bones to fix hearing. The eardrum can repair itself but it might have scar tissue influencing its ability to vibrate. Surgery can fix that, also.

What Can You do to Counter This Permanent Hearing Loss?

It’s essential to consult a doctor if you think you may have an ear infection. The sooner you receive treatment, the better. If you have chronic ear infections, don’t ignore them. More damage will be caused by more serious infections. Ear infections normally start with allergies, sinus infections, and colds so take steps to prevent them. It’s time to stop smoking because it causes chronic respiratory issues which can, in turn, lead to ear infections.

If you’ve had an ear infection and still are having problems hearing, see your doctor. Other things can cause conductive hearing loss, but it may be possible that you may have some damage. Hearing aids are very helpful if you have permanent loss of hearing. You can schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist to get more info about hearing aids.

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