Otitis media is the medical name for what you probably call an ear infection. These ear infections can have an effect on adults and children alike, particularly after a sinus infection or a cold. Even an injured tooth can trigger an ear infection.
How long will hearing loss last after an infection of the middle ear? The answer to this question might be more complex than you think. There are a lot of things happening with ear infections. You should learn how the damage caused by ear infections can have an impact on your hearing.
Otitis Media, What is it?
The simplest way to comprehend otitis media is that it’s an infection of the middle ear. Bacteria is the most likely cause, but it may be caused by any type of micro-organism.
The principal way in which an infection is specified is by what part of the ear is infected. 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. An inner ear infection, also called labyrinthitis is brought about by bacteria in the cochlea.
The middle ear consists of the area behind the eardrum but in front of the cochlea. This area contains the three ossicles, or tiny bones, that vibrate the membranes of the inner ear. An infection in this part of the ear tends to be very painful because it puts a lot of pressure on the eardrum, usually until it breaks. This pressure is not only painful, it causes a loss of hearing. The ear canal can be blocked by infectious material which will then cause a loss of hearing.
A middle ear infection has the following symptoms:
- Ear leakage
- Pain in the ear
- Reduced hearing
Usually, hearing will come back in the course of time. Hearing will come back after the pressure dissipates allowing the ear canal to open back up. The infection gets resolved and your hearing comes back. Sometimes there are complications, though.
Repeated Ear Infections
At least once in their life, the majority of people experience an ear infection. The issues can become chronic for some people and they will keep getting ear infections. Chronic ear infections can cause problems that mean a more significant and possibly permanent hearing loss, especially if the issues are neglected.
Conductive Hearing Loss From Chronic Ear Infections
Conductive hearing loss can be caused by repeated ear infections. Essentially, sound waves don’t make it to the inner ear at the proper strength. The ear has components along the canal that amplify the sound wave so by the time it gets to the tiny hair cells of the inner ear, it is strong enough to trigger a vibration. Sometimes things change along this route and the sound is not correctly 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 live and multiply, so they break down those components that amplify sound waves. 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 break them up. These bones will never come back once they are gone. That’s permanent damage and your hearing won’t return on its own. In certain cases, surgeons can put in prosthetic bones to repair hearing. The eardrum can repair itself but it will probably have scar tissue affecting its ability to move. This can also potentially be corrected with surgery.
Can This Permanent Damage be Avoided?
It’s essential to see a doctor if you think you might have an ear infection. You shouldn’t wait if you want to protect your hearing. If you get chronic ear infections, don’t ignore them. More damage is caused by more serious infections. Ear infections typically begin with allergies, sinus infections, and colds so take measures to avoid them. 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 could be possible that you have some damage, but that is not the only thing that causes conductive hearing loss. If you find out that it’s permanent, hearing aids can help you hear again. You should schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist to get more info about hearing aids.