What is commonly labeled as an ear infection, is medically known as otitis media or AOM. These ear infections can impact children as well as adults, especially after a sinus infection or a cold. You can even get an ear infection if you have a bad tooth.
Just how long will hearing loss last after having an infection of the middle ear? The answer to this question may be more challenging than you think. There are a lot of things going on with ear infections. To understand the potential risks, you should know more about the injury these infections can cause and how they impact hearing.
Otitis Media, Exactly What is it?
Otitis media is an infection of the middle ear basically. Bacteria is the most likely cause, but it might be caused by any micro-organism.
Ear infections are identified by where they develop in the ear. When the infection is in the pinna, or outer ear, or in front of the eardrum, the condition is known as otitis externa or swimmer’s ear. If the bacterial growth is in the cochlea, the term is labyrinthitis or inner ear infection.
The space in front of the cochlea but behind the eardrum is called the middle ear. The membranes of the inner ear are vibrated by three very small 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, in most cases until it breaks. That pressure is also why you don’t hear very well. Sound waves are then obstructed by the buildup of infectious material in the ear canal.
A middle ear infection includes the following symptoms:
- Drainage from the ear
- Pain in the ear
- Reduced hearing
For most people, hearing returns over time. The ear canal will then open up and hearing will come back. This will only happen when the infection is resolved. There are some exceptions, though.
Repeated Ear Infections
The majority of people experience an ear infection at least once in their life. For others, the issues become chronic, so they have infections over and over. 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 repeated ear infections. Which means that the inner ear can’t get sound waves at the proper intensity. The ear has mechanisms along the canal which amplify the sound wave so that when 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 properly amplified. This is known as conductive hearing loss.
Bacteria are very busy in your 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 kind of damage includes the eardrum and those tiny little bones. The bones are very delicate and it doesn’t take much to destroy them. Once they are gone, their gone. That’s permanent damage and your hearing won’t return on its own. Surgically putting in prosthetic bones is one possible way that a doctor may be able to correct this. The eardrum might have some scar tissue after it repairs itself, which can influence its ability to move. This can also potentially be fixed with surgery.
This Permanent Damage Can be Avoided
If you believe that you might have an ear infection, see a doctor immediately. You shouldn’t wait if you want to preserve your hearing. Always have chronic ear infection checked by a doctor. The more severe the infections you have, the more damage they cause. Finally, take the appropriate steps to prevent colds, allergies, and sinus infections because that is how ear infections typically start. It’s time to stop smoking because it leads to chronic respiratory problems which can, in turn, lead to ear infections.
If you are still having problems hearing after having 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 will help you hear once again. You should schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist to get more information on hearing aids.