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

An ear infection is the common name, but it’s medically known as otitis media or AOM. These ear infections can have an affect on children as well as adults, especially after a sinus infection or a cold. If you have a bad tooth, that can also lead to an ear infection.

Hearing loss is one of the major symptoms of an infection inside the middle ear. But is it going to last forever? You might not recognize it but there is no simple answer. There are numerous variables to take into consideration. There is damage which can be caused that you need to understand and also how that damage can affect your hearing.

Otitus Media, What is it?

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

Ear infections are defined by where they manifest 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. An inner ear infection, also called labyrinthitis is brought about by bacteria in the cochlea.

The space in front of the cochlea but behind the eardrum is called the middle ear. This area has 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, in most cases until it breaks. That pressure is also why you can’t hear very well. The ear canal can be blocked by infectious material that will then result in a loss of hearing.

A middle ear infection includes the following symptoms:

  • Leakage from the ear
  • Pain in the ear
  • Diminished ability to hear

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

Chronic Ear Infections

Most people get an ear infection at least once in their life. The issues can become chronic for some people and they will keep getting ear infections. Chronic ear infections can lead to complications that mean a more significant and possibly permanent hearing loss, especially if the problem is left untreated.

Conductive Hearing Loss From Ear Infections

Conductive hearing loss can be caused by repeated ear infections. Which means that the inner ear doesn’t receive sound waves at the proper strength. By the time the sound reaches the tiny hairs in the inner ear, they are amplified by the components of the ear canal and reach their maximum power. With a conductive hearing loss, something changes along that route and the sound isn’t amplified quite as much.

When you have an ear infection, bacteria are not just sitting in your ear doing nothing. The mechanisms that amplify sound waves are broken down and eaten by the bacteria. The damage is usually done to the tiny little bones and the eardrum. It doesn’t take very much to break down these fragile bones. Once they are gone, their gone. That’s permanent damage and your hearing won’t return on its own. In some cases, surgeons can put in prosthetic bones to restore hearing. The eardrum can restore itself but it may have scar tissue affecting its ability to move. Surgery can fix that, as well.

Can This Permanent Damage be Avoided?

If you believe that you might have an ear infection, call a doctor right away. You shouldn’t wait if you want to protect your hearing. If you get chronic ear infections, you shouldn’t neglect them. More damage is caused by more severe infections. Finally, take the appropriate steps to prevent colds, allergies, and sinus infections because that is how ear infections typically start. It’s time to quit smoking because it causes chronic respiratory problems which can, in turn, lead to ear infections.

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

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