An ear infection is the typical name, but it’s medically named otitis media or AOM. Ear infections just like this are usually seen in infants and young kids but they can affect adults, as well, particularly during or after a cold or sinus infection. Even an injured tooth can lead to an ear infection.
Exactly how long will hearing loss persist after having an infection of the middle ear? To come up with a precise answer can be rather complex. There are a lot of things happening with ear infections. There is damage which can be caused that you need to understand and also how this injury can affect your hearing.
What is Otitis Media?
Put simply, otitis media is an infection of the middle ear. It could be any kind of microorganism causing the infection but bacteria is the most common.
Ear infections are identified by where they manifest in the ear. Otitis externa, otherwise known as swimmer’s ear, is an infection of the pinna or outer ear. If the bacterial growth is in the cochlea, the medical term is labyrinthitis or inner ear infection.
The space behind the eardrum but in front of the cochlea is called the middle ear. The membranes of the inner ear are vibrated by three tiny bones called ossicles which are located in this area. An infection in this area tends to be very painful because it puts a lot of pressure on the eardrum, usually until it breaks. That pressure is also why you don’t hear very well. The infectious material builds up and blocks the ear canal enough to obstruct the movement of sound waves.
A middle ear infection has the following symptoms:
- Ear leakage
- Pain in the ear
- Decreased ability to hear
Usually, hearing will return eventually. The ear canal will then open back up and hearing will return. The infection gets resolved and your hearing comes back. There are exceptions, however.
Chronic Ear Infections
The majority of people experience an ear infection at least once in their life. Some people, however, will get ear infections again and again and they will become chronic. Because of complications, these people’s hearing loss is worse and can even become permanent.
Conductive Hearing Loss From Chronic Ear Infections
Conductive hearing loss can be brought on by chronic ear infections. This means that the inner ear can’t get sound waves 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 power. With a conductive hearing loss, something changes along that route and the sound isn’t amplified quite as much.
When you get an ear infection, bacteria are not just resting in your ear doing nothing. The components that amplify sound waves are broken down and eaten by the bacteria. The damage is normally done to the tiny little bones and the eardrum. It doesn’t take very much to break down these fragile bones. These bones will never grow back once they are gone. That’s permanent damage and your hearing won’t return on its own. Surgically installing prosthetic bones is one possible way that a doctor might be able to correct this. The eardrum may have scar tissue once it repairs itself, which will influence its ability to vibrate. Surgery can deal with that, as well.
What Can You do to Prevent This Permanent Hearing Loss?
It’s important to consult a doctor if you think you may have an ear infection. The sooner you receive treatment, the better. Always get chronic ear infection examined by a doctor. The more severe the infections you have, the more damage they cause. Finally, take steps to avoid colds, allergies, and sinus infections because that is where ear infections typically start. If you smoke, now is the time to stop, too, because smoking increases your risk of having chronic respiratory problems.
If you are still having trouble hearing after having an ear infection, see a doctor. There are other things which can cause conductive hearing loss, but it may be possible that you may have some damage. If it turns out it’s permanent, hearing aids will help you hear again. You should schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist to get more info on hearing aids.