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

What is typically referred to as an ear infection, is medically called otitis media or AOM. Ear infections like this are normally seen in babies and young children 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.

Hearing loss is one of the major signs or symptoms of an infection inside the middle ear. But is it going to last forever? To come up with a complete answer can be somewhat complex. Ear infections have a lot of things taking place. You should understand how the injury caused by ear infections can have an impact on your hearing.

Just what is Otitis Media?

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

The main way in which an infection is defined is by what part of the ear it occurs in. The outer ear, which is called the pinna, is the part of the ear where swimmer’s ear happens, which is called otitis externa. The term labyrinthitis is the term for an infection of the cochlea or inner ear.

The middle ear consists of the area behind the eardrum but in front of the cochlea. The three tiny bones in this area, called ossicles, are responsible for vibrating the membranes of the inner ear. The eardrum can actually break due to the pressure from this kind of infection, which is likely to be extremely painful. Your failure to hear very well is also due to this pressure. The ear canal can be obstructed by infectious material that will then cause a loss of hearing.

A middle ear infection includes the following symptoms:

  • Drainage from the ear
  • Ear pain
  • Reduced ability to hear

For the majority of people, hearing returns in time. Hearing will return after the pressure dissipates enabling the ear canal to open back up. This will only happen when the infection is resolved. There are exceptions, however.

Chronic Ear Infections

At least once in their life, the majority of people get an ear infection. Some people, however, will get ear infections over and over and they will become chronic. Chronic ear infections can result in complications that mean a more considerable and possibly permanent hearing loss, especially if the problem is left untreated.

Conductive Hearing Loss From Chronic Ear Infections

Conductive hearing loss can be brought on by repeated ear infections. Put simply, sound waves don’t make it to the inner ear at the proper intensity. 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 create a vibration. Sometimes something changes along this route and the sound is not properly amplified. This is called conductive hearing loss.

Bacteria are very busy in your ear when you have an ear infection. They need to eat to survive, so they break down those mechanisms that amplify sound waves. The eardrum and the tiny little bones are what is commonly affected. The bones are very fragile and it doesn’t take much to break them up. Once they are gone, their gone. That’s permanent damage and your hearing won’t return on its own. In certain cases, surgeons can install prosthetic bones to fix hearing. The eardrum can repair itself but it may have scar tissue impacting its ability to vibrate. Surgery can correct that, as well.

This Permanent Damage Can be Prevented

If you think you might have an ear infection, see a doctor right away. You shouldn’t wait if you want to protect your hearing. Always have chronic ear infection checked out by a doctor. The more severe the infections you have, the more harm they will cause. Finally, take steps to avoid colds, allergies, and sinus infections because that is where ear infections normally start. If you smoke, now is the right time to stop, too, because smoking multiplies your risk of having chronic respiratory issues.

If you’ve had an ear infection and are still having difficulties hearing, see your doctor. It could be possible that you have some damage, but that is not the only thing that causes conductive hearing loss. Hearing aids are very helpful if you have permanent loss of hearing. You should schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist to get more information about hearing aids.

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