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

What is usually referred to as an ear infection, is medically called otitis media or AOM. Ear infections are very prevalent after a sinus infection or cold and they not only affect children but adults as well. You can even get an ear infection from a bad tooth.

When you have an infection in the middle ear you will most likely have at least some loss of hearing, but will it go away? The answer to this question might be more challenging than you may think. There are quite a few variables to consider. You should learn how the damage caused by ear infections can end up affecting your hearing.

Otitus Media, What is it?

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

The main way an infection is specified is by what part of the ear it occurs in. 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 medical term is labyrinthitis or inner ear infection.

The middle ear is comprised of the space behind the eardrum but in front of the cochlea. The membranes of the inner ear are vibrated by three little bones called ossicles which are located in this area. The eardrum will often actually break because of the pressure from this sort of infection, which is likely to be quite painful. This pressure is not only very painful, it causes hearing loss. The ear canal can be blocked by infectious material which can then cause a loss of hearing.

A middle ear infection includes the following symptoms:

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

Usually, hearing will return eventually. The ear canal will then open up and hearing will return. The infection gets resolved and your hearing comes back. Sometimes there are complications, though.

Repeated Ear Infections

At least once in their life, most people get an ear infection. Some people, however, will get ear infections again and again and they will become chronic. Because of complications, these people’s hearing loss is more serious and can even become permanent.

Conductive Hearing Loss Caused by Ear Infections

Conductive hearing loss can be brought on by chronic ear infections. Put simply, sound waves don’t reach the inner ear with enough intensity. The ear has components along the canal that amplify the sound wave so that when it reaches the tiny hair cells of the inner ear, it is strong enough to trigger a vibration. With a conductive hearing loss, something changes along that route and the sound isn’t amplified as much.

Bacteria don’t merely sit and do nothing in the ear when you get an ear infection. They need to eat to live and multiply, so they break down those mechanisms that amplify sound waves. The damage is normally done to the tiny little bones and also the eardrum. It doesn’t take very much to break down these delicate bones. These bones will never come back once they are gone. That’s permanent damage and your hearing won’t return on its own. Surgically putting in prosthetic bones is one possible way that a doctor might be able to correct this. The eardrum may have some scar tissue once it repairs itself, which can affect its ability to move. This can also potentially be corrected with surgery.

What Can You do to Counter This Permanent Hearing Loss?

It’s important to see a doctor if you think you may have an ear infection. You shouldn’t wait if you want to preserve your hearing. Always get chronic ear infection examined by a doctor. More damage is caused by more serious infections. Ear infections normally begin with allergies, sinus infections, and colds so take measures to prevent them. If you smoke, now is the time to quit, 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. It is possible you have some damage, but that is not the only thing that can cause conductive hearing loss. Hearing aids can be very helpful if you have permanent hearing loss. To get more information about hearing aids, schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist.

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