An ear infection is the accepted name, but it’s medically known as otitis media or AOM. Ear infections such as this are commonly seen in infants and young kids but they can 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.
When you have an infection in the middle ear you will most likely have at least some loss of hearing, but will it go away? To find a complete answer can be somewhat complex. There are quite a few factors to consider. You should learn how the damage caused by ear infections can end up affecting your hearing.
Otitis Media, Exactly What is it?
To put it simply, otitis media is an infection of the middle ear. Bacteria is the most likely cause, but it might be caused by any micro-organism.
Ear infections are identified by where they develop in the ear. 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. An inner ear infection, also called labyrinthitis is brought about by bacteria in the cochlea.
The space behind the eardrum but in front of the cochlea is known as the middle ear. The membranes of the inner ear are vibrated by three tiny bones called ossicles which are situated in this area. An infection in this area tends to be very painful because it puts a lot of pressure on the eardrum, in most cases until it actually breaks. That pressure is also why you can’t hear very well. Sound waves are then obstructed by the buildup of infectious material in the ear canal.
The signs or symptoms of a middle ear infection in an adult include:
- Ear drainage
- Pain in the ear
- Reduced ability to hear
For the majority of people, hearing returns in time. Hearing will return after the pressure dissipates enabling the ear canal to open back up. The issue will only be resolved when the infection is resolved. Sometimes there are complications, though.
Repeated Ear Infections
At least once in their life, most people experience an ear infection. The problem can become chronic for some people and they will keep having ear infections. Chronic ear infections can result in complications that mean a more significant and possibly permanent loss of hearing, especially if the problem is neglected.
Conductive Hearing Loss Caused by Ear Infections
Ear infections can sometimes cause conductive hearing loss. As a result, the sound waves going to the inner ear are not strong enough. The ear has components along the canal that amplify the sound wave so that when it reaches the tiny hair cells of the inner ear, it is powerful enough to cause a vibration. Sometimes things change along this route and the sound is not correctly amplified. This is known as conductive hearing loss.
When you get an ear infection, bacteria are not just resting in your ear doing nothing. They must eat to survive, so they break down those components that amplify sound waves. Typically, this type of damage involves the eardrum and the tiny little bones. The bones are very delicate and it doesn’t take much to destroy them. If you suffer a loss of these bones they don’t grow back. You don’t just get your hearing back once this damage happens. Surgically installing prosthetic bones is one possible way that a doctor might be able to correct this. The eardrum can restore itself but it will probably have scar tissue influencing its ability to move. This can also potentially be fixed with surgery.
This Permanent Hearing Loss Can be Prevented
It’s essential to see a doctor when you think you might have an ear infection. You shouldn’t wait if you want to preserve your hearing. Always get chronic ear infection checked by a doctor. The more serious the infections you have, the more harm they will cause. Ear infections normally begin with allergies, sinus infections, and colds so take measures to prevent them. It’s time to quit smoking because it causes chronic respiratory issues 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. Hearing aids are very helpful if you have permanent loss of hearing. You can schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist to get more info on hearing aids.