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

An ear infection is the accepted name, but it’s medically named otitis media or AOM. Ear infections just like this are normally found in infants 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 lead to an ear infection.

Hearing loss is one of the primary signs and symptoms of an infection inside the middle ear. But is it permanent? You might not realize it but the answer can be complicated. Ear infections have a lot of things happening. There is damage which can be caused that you need to understand and also how this injury can impact your ability to hear.

Otitis Media, What is it?

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

Ear infections are identified by where they manifest in the ear. When the infection is in the pinna, or outer ear, or in the front of the eardrum, the condition is called otitis externa or swimmer’s ear. An inner ear infection, also called labyrinthitis is brought about by bacteria in the cochlea.

The space in front of the cochlea but behind the eardrum is called the middle ear. This area has the three ossicles, or tiny bones, that vibrate 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. This pressure is not only painful, it causes hearing loss. Sound waves are then hindered by the accumulation of infectious material in the ear canal.

A middle ear infection includes the following symptoms:

  • Leakage from the ear
  • Pain in the ear
  • Diminished ability to hear

Usually, hearing will come back in the course of time. The pressure dissipates and the ear canal opens. This will only happen when the infection gets better. There are some exceptions, though.

Chronic Ear Infections

At least once in their life, most people experience an ear infection. For some others, 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 From Chronic Ear Infections

Conductive hearing loss can be brought on by repeated ear infections. Put simply, sound waves don’t get to the inner ear at the proper intensity. By the time the sound reaches the tiny hairs in the inner ear, they are amplified by the mechanisms of the ear canal and reach their maximum power. When you have conductive hearing loss, something changes along that route and the sound isn’t amplified quite as much.

Bacteria are very busy inside your ear when you have an ear infection. They need to eat to live and multiply, so they break down those mechanisms that amplify sound waves. The damage is in most cases done to the tiny little bones and 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. You don’t just get your hearing back once this damage happens. Surgically putting in prosthetic bones is one possible way that a doctor may be able to correct this. The eardrum may have scar tissue after it repairs itself, which will affect its ability to vibrate. Surgery can fix that, also.

What Can You do to Prevent This Permanent Hearing Loss?

If you believe that you might have an ear infection, call a doctor immediately. You shouldn’t wait if you want to protect your hearing. Also, don’t overlook chronic ear infections. The more severe the infections you have, the more harm they cause. Finally, take steps to avoid colds, allergies, and sinus infections because that is where ear infections usually start. It’s time to stop smoking because it leads to chronic respiratory problems which will, in turn, lead to ear infections.

If you are still having trouble hearing after having an ear infection, consult a doctor. It could be possible that you have some damage, but that is not the only thing that can cause conductive hearing loss. If you find out that it’s permanent, hearing aids can help you hear again. You should schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist to get more info on hearing aids.

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