An ear infection is the well-known name, but it’s medically called otitis media or AOM. These ear infections can affect children as well as adults, especially after a sinus infection or a cold. You can even get an ear infection from a bad tooth.
How long will loss of hearing persist after having an infection of the middle ear? To come up with a complete answer can be rather complex. There are a lot of things happening with ear infections. To understand the risks, you should learn more about the damage these infections can cause and how they impact hearing.
Just what is Otitis Media?
Basically, 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 that the infection happens in that identifies it. When the infection is in the pinna, or outer ear, or in the front of the eardrum, the condition is otitis externa or swimmer’s ear. If the bacterial growth occurs in the cochlea, the term is labyrinthitis or inner ear infection.
The space behind the eardrum but in front of the cochlea is referred to as the middle ear. The membranes of the inner ear are vibrated by three very small bones called ossicles which are located in this area. An infection in this part of the ear tends to be very painful because it puts pressure on the eardrum, usually until it actually breaks. This pressure is not only painful, it also causes a loss of hearing. The infectious material accumulates and blocks the ear canal enough to hinder the movement of sound waves.
A middle ear infection has the following symptoms:
- Drainage from the ear
- Pain in the ear
- Decreased ability to hear
Usually, hearing will come back in the course of time. Hearing will return after the pressure dissipates allowing the ear canal to open up. This will only happen when the infection gets better. Sometimes there are complications, though.
Chronic Ear Infections
At least once in their life, most people get an ear infection. For some others, the problem becomes chronic, so they have infections over and over. Chronic ear infections can lead to problems that mean a more significant and maybe even permanent hearing loss, especially if the issues are left untreated.
Conductive Hearing Loss Caused by Chronic Ear Infections
Conductive hearing loss can be brought on by repeated ear infections. In other words, sound waves don’t get to the inner ear with enough 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. When you have conductive hearing loss, something changes along that route and the sound isn’t amplified as much.
Bacteria don’t simply sit and behave themselves inside the ear when you have an ear infection. They need to eat to live and multiply, so they break down those mechanisms that amplify sound waves. The damage is in most cases done to the tiny little bones and the eardrum. The bones are very fragile and it doesn’t take much to destroy them. If you lose these bones it’s permanent. When this happens your ears don’t heal themselves. In certain cases, surgeons can install prosthetic bones to restore hearing. The eardrum can repair itself but it may have scar tissue influencing its ability to vibrate. This can also potentially be fixed with surgery.
Can This Permanent Damage be Avoided?
Most importantly, see a doctor if you believe that you have an ear infection. The sooner you get treatment, the better. Always have chronic ear infection checked out by a doctor. More damage is caused by more serious infections. Ear infections usually begin with allergies, sinus infections, and colds so take measures to prevent them. It’s time to give up smoking because it causes chronic respiratory problems which will, in turn, lead to ear infections.
If you’ve had an ear infection and are still having difficulties hearing, see your doctor. Other things 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 about hearing aids.