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 referred to as otitis media or AOM. Ear infections such as this are often found in babies and young kids but they can affect adults, as well, particularly during or after a cold or sinus infection. If you have a bad tooth, that can also result in an ear infection.

Exactly how long will loss of hearing persist after having an infection of the middle ear? You might not recognize it but there is no simple answer. There are a number of variables to take into account. You should understand how the damage caused by ear infections can have an impact on your hearing.

Otitis Media, What is it?

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

Ear infections are defined by where they occur in the ear. When the infection is in the pinna, or outer ear, or in front of the eardrum, the condition is called otitis externa or swimmer’s ear. If the bacterial growth occurs in the cochlea, the term is labyrinthitis or inner ear infection.

The area behind the eardrum but in front of the cochlea is known as the middle ear. The membranes of the inner ear are vibrated by three little bones called ossicles which are housed 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 actually breaks. This pressure is not only painful, it causes hearing loss. Sound waves are then blocked by the buildup of infectious material inside the ear canal.

A middle ear infection has the following symptoms:

  • Ear drainage
  • Ear pain
  • Reduced hearing

Usually, hearing will return eventually. The ear canal will then open back up and hearing will return. This will only happen when the infection is resolved. Sometimes there are complications, however.

Chronic Ear Infections

Ear infections affect most people at least once in their lifetime. For other people, the problem becomes chronic, so they have infections again and again. Chronic ear infections can cause complications that mean a more considerable and maybe even permanent hearing loss, especially if the problem is neglected.

Conductive Hearing Loss Caused by Chronic Ear Infections

Ear infections can sometimes lead to conductive hearing loss. When this happens the inner ear can’t get sound waves at the proper strength. The ear has components along the canal that amplify the sound wave so that when it gets to the tiny hair cells of the inner ear, it is intense enough to create a vibration. With a conductive hearing loss, something changes along that route and the sound isn’t amplified as much.

When you get an ear infection, bacteria are not just sitting in your ear doing nothing. The components that amplify sound waves are decomposed and eaten by the bacteria. Usually, this kind of damage involves the eardrum and those tiny little bones. The bones are very fragile and it doesn’t take much to destroy them. These bones will never come back once they are gone. When this takes place your ears don’t heal themselves. Surgically installing prosthetic bones is one possible way that a doctor might be able to correct this. The eardrum can repair itself but it may have scar tissue affecting its ability to vibrate. Surgery can fix that, also.

This Permanent Damage Can be Avoided

First and foremost, consult a doctor if you think you have an ear infection. The sooner you receive treatment, the better. Also, don’t neglect chronic ear infections. The more severe the infections you have, the more damage they will cause. Finally, take the appropriate steps to lessen colds, allergies, and sinus infections because that is where ear infections typically start. If you are a smoker, now is the time to stop, too, because smoking increases your risk of having chronic respiratory problems.

If you are still having difficulty hearing after getting an ear infection, see a doctor. It could be possible that you have some damage, but that is not the only thing that causes conductive hearing loss. Hearing aids can be very helpful if you have permanent hearing loss. You can schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist to get more info on hearing aids.

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