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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 typical name, but it’s medically named otitis media or AOM. Ear infections just like this are often found in babies 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 lead to an ear infection.

If you have an infection in the middle ear you will most likely have at least some loss of hearing, but how long will it last? To come up with a precise answer can be somewhat complex. Ear infections have a lot of things taking place. You should understand how the injury caused by ear infections can have an impact on your hearing.

Exactly what is Otitis Media?

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

It’s what part of the ear that the infection develops in that defines it. Otitis externa, or swimmer’s ear, is an infection of the pinna or outer ear. An inner ear infection, otherwise known as labyrinthitis is brought about by bacteria in the cochlea.

The area behind the eardrum but in front of the cochlea is referred to as the middle ear. This area contains the three ossicles, or tiny bones, that vibrate the membranes of the inner ear. The eardrum can actually break because of the pressure from this type of infection, which is likely to be very painful. 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 has the following symptoms:

  • Drainage from the ear
  • Pain in the ear
  • Decreased ability to hear

Usually, hearing will come back eventually. Hearing will come back after the pressure dissipates permitting the ear canal to open back up. The infection gets better and your hearing comes back. Sometimes there are complications, though.

Repeated Ear Infections

Most people experience an ear infection at least once in their lifetime. The issues can become chronic for some people and they will keep having ear infections. Because of complications, these people’s hearing loss is more serious and can possibly become permanent.

Conductive Hearing Loss From Ear Infections

Conductive hearing loss can be brought on by repeated ear infections. Essentially, sound waves don’t get to the inner ear 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 intense enough to cause a vibration. When you have conductive hearing loss, something changes along that route and the sound isn’t amplified as much.

When you get an ear infection, bacteria are not just laying inside your ear doing nothing. The mechanisms that amplify sound waves are decomposed and eaten by the bacteria. The damage is in most cases done to the tiny little bones and the eardrum. The bones are very fragile and it doesn’t take much to break them up. If you suffer a loss of these bones it’s permanent. When this takes place your ears don’t heal themselves. In some cases, surgeons can put in prosthetic bones to restore hearing. The eardrum can restore itself but it might have scar tissue influencing its ability to vibrate. Surgery can deal with that, also.

This Permanent Damage Can be Avoided

Most significantly, consult a doctor if you believe that you have an ear infection. You shouldn’t wait if you want to preserve your hearing. Always get chronic ear infection examined by a doctor. The more severe the infections you have, the more damage they cause. Ear infections normally start with allergies, sinus infections, and colds so take measures to prevent them. It’s time to give up smoking because it leads to chronic respiratory problems which will, in turn, lead to ear infections.

If you’ve had an ear infection and are still having trouble hearing, see your doctor. There are other things which can cause conductive hearing loss, but you may have some damage. Hearing aids are very helpful if you have permanent loss of hearing. You should schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist to get more information about hearing aids.

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