What is commonly known as an ear infection, is medically known as otitis media or AOM. These ear infections can impact adults and children alike, particularly after a sinus infection or a cold. Even a bad tooth can lead to an ear infection.
Exactly how long will hearing loss last after having an infection of the middle ear? The answer to this question may be more complicated than you think. There are many variables to take into account. You should understand how the damage caused by ear infections can end up affecting your hearing.
Otitis Media, Exactly What is it?
Put simply, otitis media is an infection of the middle ear. It could possibly be any kind of microorganism causing the infection however bacteria is the most common.
It’s what part of the ear the infection develops in that identifies it. Otitis externa, otherwise known as swimmer’s ear, is an infection of the pinna or outer ear. If the bacterial growth occurs in the cochlea, the medical term is labyrinthitis or inner ear infection.
The middle ear consists of the space behind the eardrum but in front of the cochlea. This area has the three ossicles, or tiny bones, that vibrate the membranes of the inner ear. The eardrum will often actually break as a result of the pressure from this sort of infection, which tends to be really painful. This pressure is not only painful, it also causes hearing loss. Sound waves are then obstructed by the accumulation of infectious material in the ear canal.
A middle ear infection includes the following symptoms:
- Ear leakage
- Ear pain
- Diminished hearing
For the majority of people, hearing comes back in time. The pressure dissipates and the ear canal opens up. The infection gets resolved and your hearing comes back. Sometimes there are complications, though.
Repeated Ear Infections
The majority of people experience an ear infection at least once in their lifetime. Some people, however, will get ear infections over and over so they become chronic. Chronic ear infections can lead to complications that mean a more significant and maybe even permanent hearing loss, especially if the issues are neglected.
Conductive Hearing Loss From Chronic Ear Infections
Ear infections can sometimes cause conductive hearing loss. This means that the inner ear can’t receive 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 strength. Sometimes things change along this route and the sound is not properly amplified. This is called conductive hearing loss.
When you have an ear infection, bacteria are not just resting in your ear doing nothing. They need to eat to survive, so they break down those components that amplify sound waves. The eardrum and the tiny little bones are what is normally affected. It doesn’t take very much to destroy these fragile 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 occurs. In some cases, surgeons can put in prosthetic bones to fix hearing. The eardrum may have some scar tissue after it repairs itself, which can influence its ability to vibrate. Surgery can fix that, as well.
This Permanent Hearing Loss Can be Prevented
Above all, see a doctor if you believe that you have an ear infection. The sooner you receive treatment, the better. Always get chronic ear infection checked 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. If you smoke, now is the right time to quit, too, because smoking multiplies your risk of getting chronic respiratory issues.
If you are still having problems hearing after having an ear infection, consult a doctor. It could be possible that you have some damage, but that is not the only thing that causes conductive hearing loss. If it turns out it’s permanent, hearing aids can help you hear again. You can schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist to get more info about hearing aids.