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Can an Ear Infection Lead to Hearing Loss?

Ear infections are typically seen in young children and infants. However, they can sometimes occur in adults. This is especially the case for those who are experiencing a sinus infection or cold. These infections may also be the result of a bad tooth. Whatever the cause, this condition often comes with a certain degree of hearing loss. And it leads many to wonder how long the hearing loss will remain after the infection has cleared up. 

Unfortunately, the answer to this question is complicated because there are several factors involved. Let’s take a moment to discuss conductive hearing loss and what you can do to prevent it from becoming permanent after an ear infection. But first, let’s talk about what an ear infection is. 

What is an Ear Infection?

Eustachian tubes are tubes that run from your ears to the back of your throat. They help to ensure that the pressure in your ears is equalized. However, when these tubes become blocked or swollen it leads to a build-up of fluid in the middle ear. And this results in an ear infection, also referred to as Otitis Media. 

Several things can block your Eustachian tubes such as colds, excess mucus, allergies, sinus infections, a change in air pressure, swollen glands, or smoking. The most common symptoms include ear drainage, a persistent feeling of pressure, a mild ache, and hearing loss. You may notice these issues in one or both of your ears. In some instances, the symptoms are constant. In others, they’re come and go. 

If the ear infection is mild, then it’s likely that it will clear up on its own without medical intervention. The symptoms can often be relieved with the use of over-the-counter pain medications such as Advil and Tylenol and a warm cloth placed over the ear. However, if the symptoms show no improvement or only seem to worsen then you may be prescribed antibiotics.

In extreme cases, your doctor may recommend surgery. This is especially true if the condition doesn’t seem to be responding to medications and treatments or if you’re experiencing several infections in a small window of time. In these instances, the doctor will place tubes inside of the ears so that fluid can drain out. If your adenoids are swollen, then they may be removed. 

Chronic Ear Infections

Most people will experience at least one ear infection in their lifetime. However, for some individuals, this condition is a recurring problem. Chronic infection is referred to as Acute Otitis Media. And with time, the hearing loss that comes with these ear infections can become worse and eventually permanent. 

Ear Infections and Conductive Hearing Loss 

If you’re someone who suffers from chronic ear infections then you may experience conductive hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss takes place when your inner ear isn’t able to receive sound waves at their full strength. Specifically, your ear contains mechanisms along the canal that help to amplify sound. And whenever the sound gets to the hair cells in your inner ear, it creates a vibration. However, if something changes on the way to the hairs in your inner ear, the sound won’t be properly amplified.

Bacteria are usually responsible for disrupting this process. If you have an infection the bacteria will eat away at the mechanisms that amplify sound. Bacteria can cause damage to your eardrum. Not only that, but they can also do damage to the fragile bones in your ear. 

While bone damage tends to be permanent, certain procedures can be done to possibly repair the damage. Though you can’t regrow bones, the doctor may be able to install prosthetic bones. Luckily, the eardrum can restore itself naturally, but there’s a chance that you may have some scar tissue that affects the ear drum’s ability to move. This is also an issue that could be repaired with surgery.

Preventing Permanent Hearing Loss

Many people experience permanent hearing loss simply because they don’t attend to the problem soon enough. If you think that you may have an ear infection and you want to preserve your hearing, it’s very important that you see a doctor as soon as possible. Also, if you’re someone who struggles with chronic ear infections then don’t ignore it. The more severe the infection, the more damage is caused. 

In most instances, ear infections come from everyday illnesses such as cold and sinus infections. So it’s best that you take the proper measures to avoid and protect against them. Wash your hands frequently to help prevent the spreading of germs, especially when you come into contact with someone who has the flu or a cold. If you’re a smoker, then now is a great time to quit as this could lead to chronic issues. 

Another culprit of ear infections is the items that come into contact with the inside of the ears. It’s important that you avoid sticking foreign objects in your ear. This includes items such as bobby pins and even cotton swabs. These things can bruise and cut your ear canal. And this leaves it vulnerable to infections. 

Conclusion

Ear infections are a common ailment. In fact, according to statistics, 5 out of 6 children experience them before they turn 3 years old. Unfortunately, this can lead to hearing loss. However, whether or not this loss is permanent depends on your specific condition and how much damage was sustained. Ultimately, if you want to know more about how your ear infection will affect you in the long term, it’s a good idea to speak with a specialist who has experience with audiology. He or she can offer more in-depth and personalized information.

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