Hearing Services of Nashville

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

Otitis media is the medical term for what you most likely call an ear infection. Ear infections are especially prevalent after a sinus infection or cold and they not only affect children but also adults. Even a bad tooth can trigger an ear infection.

How long will loss of hearing persist after having an infection of the middle ear? You might not realize it but the answer can be complicated. Ear infections have a lot taking place. There is damage that can be caused that you need to understand and also how this damage can impact your ability to hear.

Otitis Media, What is it?

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

The main way an infection is specified is by what part of the ear it occurs in. Otitis externa, or swimmer’s ear, is an infection of the pinna or outer ear. An inner ear infection, otherwise known as labyrinthitis is brought about by bacteria in the cochlea.

The area behind the eardrum but in front of the cochlea is known as the middle ear. This area contains the three ossicles, or tiny bones, that vibrate the membranes of the inner ear. 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 failure to hear very well is also because of this pressure. The infectious material builds up and finally blocks the ear canal enough to obstruct the movement of sound waves.

The signs of a middle ear infection in an adult include:

  • Ear drainage
  • Ear pain
  • Diminished hearing

Usually, hearing will return eventually. Hearing will come back after the pressure dissipates enabling the ear canal to open up. This will only happen when the infection gets better. Sometimes there are complications, however.

Repeated Ear Infections

The majority of people experience an ear infection at least once in their life. For some others, the issues become chronic, so they have infections over and over. Chronic ear infections can cause problems that mean a more considerable and maybe even permanent hearing loss, especially if the problem is left untreated.

Conductive Hearing Loss From Ear Infections

Conductive hearing loss can be brought on by chronic ear infections. When this happens the inner ear doesn’t get sound waves at the proper intensity. The ear has components along the canal that amplify the sound wave so by the time it gets to the tiny hair cells of the inner ear, it is strong enough to cause a vibration. Sometimes things change along this route and the sound is not correctly amplified. This is called conductive hearing loss.

When you get an ear infection, bacteria are not just resting in your ear doing nothing. They must eat to survive, so they break down those components that amplify sound waves. The damage is usually done to the tiny little bones and the eardrum. It doesn’t take very much to break down these delicate bones. Once they are gone, they stay gone. That’s permanent damage and your hearing won’t return on its own. In some cases, surgeons can install prosthetic bones to repair hearing. The eardrum might have some scar tissue once it repairs itself, which can influence its ability to move. Surgery can correct that, as well.

What Can You do to Prevent This Permanent Hearing Loss?

It’s essential to see a doctor when you think you may have an ear infection. The sooner you receive treatment, the better. If you have chronic ear infections, you shouldn’t ignore them. The more severe the infections you have, the more harm they will cause. Ear infections typically start with allergies, sinus infections, and colds so take measures to prevent them. If you smoke, now is the right time to stop, too, because smoking multiplies your risk of having chronic respiratory issues.

If you are still having difficulty hearing after getting an ear infection, see a doctor. There are other things which can cause conductive hearing loss, but you may have some damage. Hearing aids are very helpful if you have permanent hearing loss. You can schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist to get more information on hearing aids.

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