Hearing Associates of Libertyville, IL

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

An ear infection is the typical name, but it’s medically known as otitis media or AOM. These ear infections can affect children as well as adults, especially after a sinus infection or a cold. 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 in the middle ear. But is it going to last forever? The answer to this question might be more complex than you may think. There are a lot of things going on with ear infections. To understand the potential risks, you need to know more about the harm these infections can cause and how they affect hearing.

Just what is Otitis Media?

To put it simply, otitis media is an infection of the middle ear. Bacteria is the most prevalent cause, but it could possibly be caused by any type of micro-organism.

Ear infections are defined by where they manifest in the ear. The outer ear, which is called the pinna, is where swimmer’s ear occurs, which is called otitis externa. If the bacterial growth occurs in the cochlea, the medical term is labyrinthitis or inner ear infection.

The space in front of the cochlea but behind the eardrum is known as the middle ear. The membranes of the inner ear are vibrated by three little bones called ossicles which are situated in this area. An infection in this area tends to be very painful because it puts pressure on the eardrum, usually until it actually breaks. This pressure is not only very painful, it also causes hearing loss. The infectious material accumulates and finally blocks the ear canal enough to hinder the movement of sound waves.

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

  • Drainage from the ear
  • Ear pain
  • Decreased ability to hear

For the majority of people, hearing returns in time. The pressure goes away and the ear canal opens up. The infection gets resolved and your hearing comes back. There are some exceptions, however.

Repeated Ear Infections

Ear infections happen to most people at least once in their lifetime. For other people, the issues become chronic, so they have infections again and again. Because of complications, these people’s hearing loss is worse and can even become permanent.

Conductive Hearing Loss From Ear Infections

Ear infections can sometimes lead to conductive hearing loss. As a result, the inner ear doesn’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 mechanisms of the ear canal and reach their maximum power. 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 have an ear infection. They must eat to live and multiply, so they break down those components that amplify sound waves. Normally, this type of damage involves the eardrum and those tiny little bones. It doesn’t take very much to break down these delicate bones. If you suffer a loss of these bones they don’t grow back. You don’t just get your hearing back once this damage happens. Surgically installing prosthetic bones is one possible way that a doctor might be able to correct this. The eardrum may have some scar tissue after it repairs itself, which will impact its ability to vibrate. This can also potentially be fixed with surgery.

What Can You do to Counter This Permanent Hearing Loss?

First and foremost, consult a doctor if you believe that you have an ear infection. You shouldn’t wait if you want to preserve your hearing. If you have chronic ear infections, don’t neglect them. More damage will be caused by more serious infections. Finally, take steps to avoid colds, allergies, and sinus infections because that is where ear infections normally start. It’s time to quit smoking because it causes chronic respiratory problems which can, in turn, lead to ear infections.

If you are still having trouble hearing after getting an ear infection, see a doctor. It is possible 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 once again. To get more info about hearing aids, schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist.

Call Now
Find Location