Will I Have Permanent Hearing Loss After I Get an Ear Infection?

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

What is generally labeled as an ear infection, is medically known as otitis media or AOM. These ear infections can affect children as well as adults, especially after a sinus infection or a cold. You can even get an ear infection if you have a bad tooth.

How long will hearing loss persist after you get an infection of the middle ear? The answer to this question may be more complicated than you may think. There are many things going on with ear infections. You should learn how the damage caused by ear infections can end up affecting your hearing.

Otitis Media, Exactly What is it?

Otitis media is an infection of the middle ear basically. It could be any kind of microorganism causing the infection but bacteria is the most common.

Ear infections are identified by where they appear in the ear. Otitis externa, or swimmer’s ear, is an infection of the pinna or outer ear. The term labyrinthitis refers to an infection of the cochlea or inner ear.

The space in front of the cochlea but behind the eardrum is called the middle ear. The membranes of the inner ear are vibrated by three very small bones called ossicles which are situated in this area. An infection in this part of the ear tends to be very painful because it puts pressure on the eardrum, often until it breaks. That pressure is also the reason why you don’t hear very well. The ear canal can be clogged by infectious material which can then cause a loss of hearing.

A middle ear infection includes the following symptoms:

  • Ear drainage
  • Pain in the ear
  • Reduced hearing

Over time, hearing will come back for the majority of people. The ear canal will then open back up and hearing will come back. The infection gets resolved and your hearing returns. Sometimes there are complications, though.

Repeated Ear Infections

The majority of people get an ear infection at least once in their life. Some people, however, will get ear infections over and over and they will become chronic. Chronic ear infections can result in problems that mean a more significant and maybe even permanent hearing loss, especially if the issues are neglected.

Conductive Hearing Loss Caused by Ear Infections

Conductive hearing loss can be caused by repeated ear infections. As a result, the inner ear can’t get sound waves at the proper intensity. The ear has mechanisms along the canal which amplify the sound wave so that when it reaches the tiny hair cells of the inner ear, it is powerful enough to trigger a vibration. Sometimes something changes along this route and the sound is not effectively amplified. This is called conductive hearing loss.

Bacteria don’t just sit and behave themselves inside the ear when you have an ear infection. They need to eat to live and multiply, so they break down those components that amplify sound waves. The eardrum and the tiny little bones are what is normally affected. It doesn’t take very much to destroy these delicate bones. These bones will never grow back once they are gone. You don’t just get your hearing back once this damage occurs. In certain cases, surgeons can put in prosthetic bones to repair hearing. The eardrum might have scar tissue after it repairs itself, which can influence its ability to vibrate. Surgery can fix that, also.

Can This Permanent Damage be Avoided?

First and foremost, consult a doctor if you think you have an ear infection. You shouldn’t wait if you want to preserve your hearing. Also, don’t neglect chronic ear infections. The more serious the infections you have, the more harm they cause. Ear infections usually begin with allergies, sinus infections, and colds so take measures to avoid them. If you smoke, now is the right time to quit, too, because smoking increases your risk of having chronic respiratory troubles.

If you are still having trouble hearing after getting an ear infection, see a doctor. Other things can cause conductive hearing loss, but it may be possible that you may have some damage. If you find out that it’s permanent, hearing aids can help you hear once again. To get more information about hearing aids, schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist.

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.