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Will I Have Permanent Hearing Loss After I Get an Ear Infection?

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

What is generally referred to as an ear infection, is medically called otitis media or AOM. These ear infections can impact children as well as adults, especially after a sinus infection or a cold. You can even get an ear infection if you have a bad tooth.

Hearing loss is one of the primary signs and symptoms of an infection in the middle ear. But is it going to last forever? To come up with a precise answer can be fairly complex. Ear infections have a lot taking place. To understand the potential risks, you should learn more about the damage these infections can cause and how they affect hearing.

Exactly what is Otitis Media?

Otitus media is an infection of the middle ear to put it simply. It could be any type of microorganism causing the infection but bacteria is the most common.

Ear infections are identified by where they develop in the ear. The outer ear, which is called the pinna, is the part of the ear where swimmer’s ear develops, which is called otitus externa. The term labyrinthitis is the term for an infection of the cochlea or inner ear.

The space in front of the cochlea but behind the eardrum is known as the middle ear. The three little bones in this area, known as ossicles, are responsible for vibrating the membranes of the inner ear. An infection in this area tends to be very painful because it puts pressure on the eardrum, often until it breaks. That pressure is also the reason why you can’t hear very well. The infectious material accumulates and blocks the ear canal enough to obstruct the movement of sound waves.

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

  • Ear drainage
  • Pain in the ear
  • Diminished ability to hear

For most people, hearing comes back in time. Hearing will come back after the pressure starts to go away enabling the ear canal to open up. The infection gets resolved and your hearing comes back. There are exceptions, however.

Chronic Ear Infections

At least once in their life, most people experience an ear infection. For others, the problem becomes chronic, so they have infections again and again. Chronic ear infections can cause problems that mean a more significant and possibly permanent loss of hearing, especially if the problem is left untreated.

Conductive Hearing Loss Caused by Ear Infections

Ear infections can lead to conductive hearing loss. Put simply, sound waves can’t make it to the inner ear at the proper strength. The ear has mechanisms along the canal that amplify the sound wave so that when it reaches the tiny hair cells of the inner ear, it is intense enough to trigger a vibration. When you have conductive hearing loss, something changes along that route and the sound isn’t amplified as much.

When you get an ear infection, bacteria are not just laying inside your ear doing nothing. They must eat to live and multiply, so they break down those components that amplify sound waves. The eardrum and the tiny little bones are what is usually affected. The bones are very delicate and it doesn’t take much to destroy them. If you suffer a loss of these bones they don’t grow back. You don’t just get your hearing back once this damage occurs. Surgically installing prosthetic bones is one possible way that a doctor may be able to correct this. The eardrum might have scar tissue after it repairs itself, which will impact its ability to move. Surgery can deal with that, as well.

Can This Permanent Hearing Loss be Prevented?

It’s essential to consult a doctor when you think you might have an ear infection. The sooner you get treatment, the better. If you have chronic ear infections, you shouldn’t ignore them. More damage will be caused by more severe infections. Finally, take the appropriate steps to avoid colds, allergies, and sinus infections because that is where ear infections normally start. If you smoke, now is the time to stop, too, because smoking multiplies your risk of having chronic respiratory troubles.

If you are still having trouble hearing after having an ear infection, consult a doctor. There are other things which can cause conductive hearing loss, but it may be possible that you may have some damage. If you find out that it’s permanent, hearing aids will help you hear again. You should schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist to get more information on hearing aids.

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