Can an Ear Infection Cause Long-Term Hearing Loss?

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

An ear infection is the well-known name, but it’s medically known as otitis media or AOM. These ear infections can affect adults and children alike, especially after a sinus infection or a cold. If you have a bad tooth, that can also lead to an ear infection.

Just how long will hearing loss last after you get an infection of the middle ear? To come up with a precise answer can be rather complex. There are quite a few variables to take into consideration. You should learn how the injury caused by ear infections can have an impact on your hearing.

Just what is Otitis Media?

Otitus media is an infection of the middle ear basically. Bacteria is the most prevalent cause, but it might be caused by any type of micro-organism.

The main way in which 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 the front of the eardrum, the condition is known as otitis externa or swimmer’s ear. An inner ear infection, otherwise known as labyrinthitis is caused by bacteria in the cochlea.

The area behind the eardrum but in front of the cochlea is referred to as the middle ear. The membranes of the inner ear are vibrated by three very small bones called ossicles which are situated in this area. An infection in this part of the ear tends to be very painful because it puts pressure on the eardrum, often until it breaks. Your inability to hear very well is also because of this pressure. The ear canal can be clogged by infectious material that will then cause a loss of hearing.

A middle ear infection has the following symptoms:

  • Ear drainage
  • Ear pain
  • Diminished hearing

Over time, hearing will return for most people. The ear canal will open up and hearing will return. This will only happen when the infection gets better. Sometimes there are complications, though.

Chronic Ear Infections

The majority of people get an ear infection at least once in their lifetime. For some others, the issues become chronic, so they have infections over and over. Because of complications, these people’s hearing loss is more serious and can even become permanent.

Conductive Hearing Loss From Chronic Ear Infections

Conductive hearing loss can be caused by chronic ear infections. In other words, sound waves don’t reach the inner ear at the proper strength. By the time the sound reaches the tiny hairs in the inner ear, they are amplified by the elements of the ear canal and reach their maximum strength. Sometimes things change along this route and the sound is not properly amplified. This is called conductive hearing loss.

When you get an ear infection, bacteria are not just laying inside your ear doing nothing. The mechanisms that amplify sound waves are broken down and eaten by the bacteria. The eardrum and the tiny little bones are what is normally affected. It doesn’t take very much to break down these fragile bones. If you lose these bones it’s permanent. When this occurs your ears don’t heal themselves. In some cases, surgeons can install prosthetic bones to restore hearing. The eardrum can restore itself but it may have scar tissue affecting its ability to vibrate. Surgery can deal with that, also.

This Permanent Damage Can be Avoided

It’s essential to see a doctor when you think you might 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. Ear infections typically start with allergies, sinus infections, and colds so take steps to prevent them. If you smoke, now is the time to quit, too, because smoking increases your risk of having chronic respiratory issues.

If you are still having problems hearing after getting an ear infection, see a doctor. It could be possible that 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 loss of hearing. You should schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist to get more information about hearing aids.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Schedule an appointment to see if hearing aids could benefit you.