Eastside Audiology - Issaquah, WA Eastside Audiology - Issaquah, WA

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 called otitis media or AOM. Ear infections just like this are often seen in infants and young kids but they can also affect adults, as well, especially during or after a cold or sinus infection. If you have a bad tooth, that can also result in an ear infection.

Exactly how long will hearing loss persist after an infection of the middle ear? To come up with a precise answer can be rather complicated. Ear infections have a lot happening. You should understand how the damage caused by ear infections can end up affecting your hearing.

Just what is Otitis Media?

The easiest way to comprehend otitis media is that it’s an infection of the middle ear. Bacteria is the most common cause, but it could be caused by any type of micro-organism.

It’s what part of the ear the infection occurs in that identifies it. The outer ear, which is medically known as the pinna, is the part of the ear where swimmer’s ear develops, which is called otitis externa. If the bacterial growth occurs in the cochlea, the term is labyrinthitis or inner ear infection.

The middle ear consists of the area behind the eardrum but in front of the cochlea. The membranes of the inner ear are vibrated by three tiny bones called ossicles which are located in this area. The eardrum can actually break as a result of the pressure from this sort of infection, which is likely to be really painful. This pressure is not only painful, it causes a loss of hearing. The ear canal can be obstructed by infectious material that can then result in a loss of hearing.

A middle ear infection includes the following symptoms:

  • Ear leakage
  • Pain in the ear
  • Decreased ability to hear

Eventually, hearing will return for most people. The pressure dissipates and the ear canal opens up. The issue will only be resolved when the infection gets better. There are exceptions, though.

Repeated Ear Infections

Most people experience an ear infection at least once in their life. The problem can become chronic for some people and they will keep getting ear infections. Because of complications, these people’s hearing loss is worse and can even become permanent.

Conductive Hearing Loss From Ear Infections

Chronic ear infections can sometimes lead to conductive hearing loss. As a result, the inner ear doesn’t receive sound waves at the proper strength. The ear has mechanisms along the canal which amplify the sound wave so that when it reaches the tiny hair cells of the inner ear, it is powerful enough to trigger a vibration. When you have conductive hearing loss, something changes along that route and the sound isn’t amplified as much.

Bacteria don’t simply sit and behave themselves inside the ear when you have an ear infection. The mechanisms that amplify sound waves are decomposed and eaten by the bacteria. The damage is in most cases done to the tiny little bones and also the eardrum. The bones are very delicate and it doesn’t take much to destroy them. These bones will never grow back once they are gone. When this happens your ears don’t heal themselves. Surgically installing prosthetic bones is one possible way that a doctor might be able to fix this. The eardrum might have some scar tissue once it repairs itself, which will influence its ability to vibrate. Surgery can deal with that, also.

What Can You do to Counter This Permanent Hearing Loss?

If you believe that you might have an ear infection, call a doctor as soon as possible. You shouldn’t wait if you want to protect your hearing. Always have chronic ear infection checked out by a doctor. The more serious the infections you have, the more harm they will cause. Ear infections usually begin with allergies, sinus infections, and colds so take steps to avoid them. If you are a smoker, now is the time to quit, too, because smoking increases your risk of getting chronic respiratory issues.

If you are still having problems hearing after having 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. You can schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist to get more info about hearing aids.

Why wait? You don't have to live with hearing loss. Call Us Today