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 usually labeled as an ear infection, is medically known as otitis media or AOM. These ear infections can have an affect on children as well as adults, especially after a cold or sinus infection. 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? The answer to this question might be more complex than you might think. There are many factors to take into consideration. You should understand how the injury caused by ear infections can end up affecting your hearing.

Exactly what is Otitis Media?

Simply put, otitis media is an infection of the middle ear. Bacteria is the most likely cause, but it could be caused by any type of micro-organism.

It’s what part of the ear the infection happens in that identifies it. When the infection is in the pinna, or outer ear, or in front of the eardrum, the condition is known as otitis externa or swimmer’s ear. The term labyrinthitis refers to an infection of the cochlea or inner ear.

The area behind the eardrum but in front of the cochlea is referred to as the middle ear. The three tiny bones in this area, called ossicles, are responsible for vibrating the membranes of the inner ear. The eardrum will often actually break because of the pressure from this kind of infection, which tends to be very painful. Your inability to hear very well is also due to this pressure. The infectious material accumulates and finally blocks the ear canal enough to hinder the movement of sound waves.

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

  • Drainage from the ear
  • Pain in the ear
  • Diminished hearing

Usually, hearing will come back eventually. The pressure goes away and the ear canal opens. The infection gets resolved and your hearing comes back. Sometimes there are complications, however.

Chronic Ear Infections

Ear infections affect most people at least once in their lifetime. For other people, the issues become chronic, so they have infections again and again. Because of complications, these people’s hearing loss is more serious and can possibly become permanent.

Conductive Hearing Loss Caused by Chronic Ear Infections

Chronic ear infections can sometimes lead to conductive hearing loss. As a result, the inner ear can’t receive sound waves at the proper strength. By the time the sound reaches the tiny hairs in the inner ear, they are already amplified by the mechanisms of the ear canal and reach their maximum strength. When you have conductive hearing loss, something changes along that route and the sound isn’t amplified as much.

Bacteria don’t just sit and do nothing in the ear when you have an ear infection. They need to eat to live and multiply, so they break down those components that amplify sound waves. The damage is normally done to the tiny little bones and also the eardrum. 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 happens. Surgically installing prosthetic bones is one possible way that a doctor may be able to fix this. The eardrum might have some scar tissue once it repairs itself, which will affect its ability to move. This can also potentially be repaired with surgery.

Can This Permanent Hearing Loss be Avoided?

Above all, see a doctor if you believe that you have an ear infection. The sooner you receive treatment, the better. If you get chronic ear infections, don’t neglect them. More damage will be caused by more severe infections. Finally, take the appropriate steps to prevent colds, allergies, and sinus infections because that is how ear infections usually start. It’s time to give up 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, see 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.

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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.