Hearing Health Blog

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. These ear infections can have an affect on adults and children alike, particularly after a sinus infection or a cold. You can even get an ear infection if you have a bad tooth.

How long will loss of hearing persist after an infection of the middle ear? The answer to this question may be more complex than you may think. There are many things going on with ear infections. You should understand how the damage caused by ear infections can have an impact on your hearing.

Otitis Media, What is it?

Simply put, otitis media is an infection of the middle ear. It could be any type of microorganism causing the infection but bacteria is the most common.

Ear infections are defined by where they manifest in the ear. When the infection is in the pinna, or outer ear, or in front of the eardrum, the condition is otitis externa or swimmer’s ear. If the bacterial growth occurs in the cochlea, the term is labyrinthitis or inner ear infection.

The space behind the eardrum but in front of the cochlea is called the middle ear. The three little bones in this area, called ossicles, are responsible for vibrating the membranes of the inner ear. An infection in this area tends to be very painful because it puts a lot of pressure on the eardrum, in most cases until it breaks. Your failure to hear very well is also because of this pressure. The ear canal can be plugged by infectious material which will then cause a loss of hearing.

A middle ear infection includes the following symptoms:

  • Ear drainage
  • Pain in the ear
  • Reduced hearing

Usually, hearing will come back eventually. The pressure dissipates and the ear canal opens up. The infection gets resolved and your hearing comes back. There are some exceptions, however.

Repeated Ear Infections

Most people get an ear infection at least once in their lifetime. Some people, however, will get ear infections again and again and they will become chronic. Because of complications, these people’s hearing loss is worse and can possibly become permanent.

Conductive Hearing Loss Caused by Ear Infections

Conductive hearing loss can be brought on by chronic ear infections. In other words, sound waves can’t get to the inner ear at the proper intensity. The ear has components along the canal which amplify the sound wave so that when it reaches the tiny hair cells of the inner ear, it is strong enough to create a vibration. Sometimes things change along this route and the sound is not properly amplified. This is called conductive hearing loss.

Bacteria are very busy inside your ear when you have an ear infection. They need to eat to survive, so they break down those mechanisms that amplify sound waves. Usually, this type of damage involves the eardrum and those tiny little bones. The bones are very fragile and it doesn’t take much to destroy them. Once they are gone, their gone. That’s permanent damage and your hearing won’t return on its own. Surgically installing prosthetic bones is one possible way that a doctor might be able to correct this. The eardrum can mend itself but it will probably have scar tissue impacting its ability to move. This can also potentially be fixed with surgery.

What Can You do to Avoid This Permanent Hearing Loss?

Above all, consult a doctor if you believe that you have an ear infection. You shouldn’t wait if you want to preserve your hearing. If you get chronic ear infections, you shouldn’t ignore them. The more severe the infections you have, the more damage they cause. Ear infections normally start with allergies, sinus infections, and colds so take measures to avoid them. It’s time to stop smoking because it causes chronic respiratory problems which will, in turn, lead to ear infections.

If you are still having trouble hearing after getting an ear infection, consult a doctor. There are other things which can cause conductive hearing loss, but you may have some damage. Hearing aids can be very helpful if you have permanent loss of hearing. To get more info about hearing aids, schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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