An ear infection is the common name, but it’s medically referred to as otitis media or AOM. Ear infections are very common after a sinus infection or cold and they don’t only affect children but also adults. You can even get an ear infection from a bad tooth.
Hearing loss is one of the major indications of an infection in the middle ear. But is it going to last forever? You might not recognize it but there is no simple answer. There are many things happening with ear infections. You should understand how the damage caused by ear infections can end up affecting your hearing.
Otitis Media, What is it?
Basically, otitis media is an infection of the middle ear. Bacteria is the most common 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. Otitis externa, otherwise known as swimmer’s ear, is an infection of the pinna or outer ear. The term labyrinthitis refers to an infection of the cochlea or inner ear.
The middle ear consists of the area behind the eardrum but in front of the cochlea. This area houses the three ossicles, or tiny bones, that vibrate the membranes of the inner ear. The eardrum will often actually break because of the pressure from this type of infection, which tends to be really painful. That pressure is also why you can’t hear very well. The ear canal can be plugged by infectious material that will then cause a loss of hearing.
A middle ear infection has the following symptoms:
- Ear drainage
- Ear pain
- Diminished ability to hear
For most people, hearing comes back in time. Hearing will return after the pressure starts to go away allowing the ear canal to open up. The infection gets better and your hearing returns. Sometimes there are complications, however.
Repeated Ear Infections
Ear infections affect most people at least once in their lifetime. 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 possibly become permanent.
Conductive Hearing Loss From Chronic Ear Infections
Conductive hearing loss can be brought on by repeated ear infections. As a result, the sound waves going to the inner ear are not strong enough. By the time the sound reaches the tiny hairs in the inner ear, they are already amplified by the mechanisms of the ear canal and reach their maximum strength. Sometimes something changes along this route and the sound is not properly amplified. This is known as conductive hearing loss.
Bacteria don’t simply sit and do nothing in the ear when you get an ear infection. They need to eat to live and multiply, so they break down those components that amplify sound waves. Usually, this type of damage includes the eardrum and those tiny little bones. The bones are very delicate and it doesn’t take much to destroy them. These bones will never come back once they are gone. When this takes place your ears don’t heal themselves. Surgically putting in prosthetic bones is one possible way that a doctor might be able to correct this. The eardrum might have scar tissue after it repairs itself, which can affect its ability to vibrate. Surgery can correct that, as well.
This Permanent Hearing Loss Can be Prevented
Above all, consult a doctor if you believe you have an ear infection. The sooner you get treatment, the better. Always get chronic ear infection examined by a doctor. More damage will be caused by more severe infections. Finally, take steps to avoid colds, allergies, and sinus infections because that is how ear infections usually start. It’s time to give up smoking because it leads to chronic respiratory issues which will, in turn, lead to ear infections.
If you’ve had an ear infection and are still having trouble hearing, see your 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 will help you hear again. To get more info about hearing aids, schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist.