An ear infection is the popular name, but it’s medically named otitis media or AOM. Ear infections are very common after a sinus infection or cold and they don’t only affect children but adults too. If you have a bad tooth, that can also result in an ear infection.
How long will hearing loss persist after an infection of the middle ear? You might not recognize it but there is no simple answer. Ear infections have a lot going on. You should understand how the damage caused by ear infections can end up affecting your hearing.
Just what is Otitis Media?
The simplest way to comprehend otitis media is that it’s 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 occur in the ear. Otitis externa, or swimmer’s ear, is an infection of the pinna or outer ear. An inner ear infection, otherwise known as labyrinthitis is caused by bacteria in the cochlea.
The middle ear is comprised of the space behind the eardrum but in front of the cochlea. The three little bones in this area, called ossicles, are responsible for vibrating the membranes of the inner ear. An infection in this area tends to be very painful because it puts pressure on the eardrum, usually until it breaks. That pressure is also the reason why you can’t hear very well. The ear canal can be plugged by infectious material that will then result in a loss of hearing.
A middle ear infection includes the following symptoms:
- Leakage from the ear
- Pain in the ear
- Reduced ability to hear
Eventually, hearing will return for most people. The ear canal will then open back up and hearing will come back. The infection gets better and your hearing returns. There are exceptions, however.
Chronic Ear Infections
Most people get an ear infection at least once in their life. For some others, the issues become chronic, so they have infections again and again. Chronic ear infections can result in problems that mean a more significant and possibly permanent hearing loss, especially if the problem is neglected.
Conductive Hearing Loss From Chronic Ear Infections
Ear infections can sometimes cause conductive hearing loss. In other words, sound waves can’t make it to the inner ear with enough intensity. The ear has mechanisms along the canal which amplify the sound wave so that when it gets to the tiny hair cells of the inner ear, it is intense enough to cause a vibration. When you have conductive hearing loss, something changes along that route and the sound isn’t amplified as much.
When you get an ear infection, bacteria are not just resting inside your ear doing nothing. The components that amplify sound waves are decomposed and eaten by the bacteria. The eardrum and the tiny little bones are what is commonly affected. 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. When this occurs your ears don’t heal themselves. In certain cases, surgeons can install prosthetic bones to fix hearing. The eardrum may have scar tissue after it repairs itself, which can influence its ability to move. This can also potentially be corrected with surgery.
What Can You do to Avoid This Permanent Hearing Loss?
It’s important to consult a doctor if you think you may have an ear infection. You shouldn’t wait if you want to protect your hearing. If you get chronic ear infections, don’t neglect them. More damage is caused by more serious infections. Ear infections normally start with allergies, sinus infections, and colds so take measures to avoid them. If you are a smoker, now is the right time to stop, too, because smoking multiplies your risk of having chronic respiratory problems.
If you are still having problems hearing after having an ear infection, see a doctor. Other things can cause conductive hearing loss, but you may have some damage. Hearing aids are very helpful if you have permanent loss of hearing. You can schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist to get more info on hearing aids.