Will I Have Permanent Hearing Loss After I Get an Ear Infection?

Woman recovers her hearing after an ear infection and listens to her grandaughter whisper something in her ear.

Otitis media is the medical term for what you probably call an ear infection. Ear infections just like this are normally seen in babies and young children but they can also affect adults, as well, especially during or after a cold or sinus infection. If you have a bad tooth, that can also result in an ear infection.

Just how long will loss of hearing last after you get an infection of the middle ear? You might not realize it but the answer can be complicated. Ear infections have a lot taking place. To understand the risks, you need to know more about the damage these infections can cause and how they impact hearing.

What is Otitis Media?

To put it simply, otitis media is an infection of the middle ear. Bacteria is the most common cause, but it could be caused by any type of micro-organism.

It’s what part of the ear the infection develops in that defines it. The outer ear, which is called the pinna, is where swimmer’s ear develops, which is called otitis externa. The term laberynthitus describes an infection of the cochlea or inner ear.

The space behind the eardrum but in front of the cochlea is referred to as the middle ear. The three little bones in this area, known as ossicles, are responsible for vibrating the membranes of the inner ear. The eardrum can actually break due to the pressure from this sort of infection, which is likely to be really painful. This pressure is not only painful, it also causes hearing loss. Sound waves are then hindered by the accumulation of infectious material in the ear canal.

A middle ear infection has the following symptoms:

  • Drainage from the ear
  • Pain in the ear
  • Diminished hearing

For most people, hearing comes back over time. The ear canal will then open up and hearing will come back. The infection gets resolved and your hearing comes back. There are exceptions, however.

Chronic Ear Infections

At least once in their life, the majority of people get an ear infection. For some others, the issues become chronic, so they have infections over and over. Chronic ear infections can cause complications that mean a more considerable and possibly permanent loss of hearing, especially if the problem is left untreated.

Conductive Hearing Loss Caused by Chronic Ear Infections

Conductive hearing loss can be brought on by chronic ear infections. In other words, sound waves can’t get to the inner ear 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 power. Sometimes something changes along this route and the sound is not properly amplified. This is known as conductive hearing loss.

Bacteria are very busy inside 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. The eardrum and the tiny little bones are what is normally affected. The bones are very fragile and it doesn’t take much to destroy them. These bones will never grow back once they are gone. When this occurs your ears don’t heal themselves. In some cases, surgeons can install prosthetic bones to restore hearing. The eardrum can fix itself but it will probably have scar tissue impacting its ability to vibrate. Surgery can correct that, also.

What Can You do to Avoid This Permanent Hearing Loss?

If you believe that you might have an ear infection, see a doctor as soon as possible. The sooner you get treatment, the better. If you get chronic ear infections, don’t neglect them. The more severe the infections you have, the more damage they will cause. Ear infections typically start with allergies, sinus infections, and colds so take measures to prevent them. If you smoke, now is the right time to stop, too, because smoking multiplies your risk of having chronic respiratory problems.

If you’ve had an ear infection and still are having problems hearing, call your doctor. It could be possible that 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 again. To get more information about hearing aids, schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.