Will my Hearing Loss be Permanent After an Ear Infection?

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 known as otitis media or AOM. These ear infections can affect adults and children alike, particularly after a cold or sinus infection. If you have a bad tooth, that can also result in an ear infection.

Hearing loss is one of the primary signs and symptoms of an infection inside the middle ear. But is it permanent? To come up with a precise answer can be somewhat complex. There are numerous factors to take into account. You should learn how the damage caused by ear infections can have an impact on your hearing.

Otitis Media, What is it?

The easiest way to understand otitis media is that it’s an infection of the middle ear. Bacteria is the most common cause, but it may be caused by any micro-organism.

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

The space behind the eardrum but in front of the cochlea is known 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 will often actually break due to the pressure from this kind of infection, which tends to be really painful. That pressure is also the reason why you can’t hear very well. Sound waves are then obstructed by the buildup of infectious material in the ear canal.

A middle ear infection has the following symptoms:

  • Leakage from the ear
  • Ear pain
  • Diminished ability to hear

Eventually, hearing will come back for the majority of people. The ear canal will then open up and hearing will return. This will only happen when the infection gets better. Sometimes there are complications, however.

Chronic Ear Infections

Ear infections happen to most people at least once in their life. The issues can become chronic for some people and they will keep having ear infections. Because of complications, these people’s hearing loss is worse and can possibly become permanent.

Conductive Hearing Loss Caused by Ear Infections

Chronic ear infections can sometimes cause conductive hearing loss. Which means that the inner ear doesn’t get sound waves at the proper intensity. The ear has components along the canal that amplify the sound wave so by the time it reaches the tiny hair cells of the inner ear, it is strong enough to create a vibration. When you have conductive hearing loss, something changes along that route and the sound isn’t amplified quite as much.

When you get an ear infection, bacteria are not just resting inside your ear doing nothing. The mechanisms that amplify sound waves are broken down and eaten by the bacteria. The eardrum and the tiny little bones are what is usually affected. The bones are very delicate and it doesn’t take much to break them up. These bones will never come back once they are gone. You don’t just get your hearing back once this damage occurs. Surgically installing prosthetic bones is one possible way that a doctor may be able to fix this. The eardrum can restore itself but it will probably have scar tissue affecting its ability to move. This can also potentially be repaired with surgery.

What Can You do to Counter This Permanent Hearing Loss?

First and foremost, consult a doctor if you believe that you have an ear infection. The sooner you receive treatment, the better. Also, don’t overlook chronic ear infections. More damage is caused by more severe infections. Finally, take the appropriate steps to lessen colds, allergies, and sinus infections because that is where ear infections normally start. It’s time to quit smoking because it causes chronic respiratory problems which can, in turn, lead to ear infections.

If you’ve had an ear infection and still are having difficulties hearing, call your 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 loss of hearing. You should schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist to get more info about hearing aids.

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.