Hearing loss can come from several different causes, including aging, injury, exposure to noise, illness, or even passed down from your parents. Those factors affect the auditory nerve, creating the most common type of hearing loss we call sensorineural hearing loss.
But did you know that an ear infection can cause hearing loss, too? Read on to find out more.
What is an ear infection?
An accumulation of fluid causes ear infections into the ear. Bacteria or viruses may develop when the fluids get stuck, and this leads to inflammation or infection. During or after a cold or flu, people are at the highest risk of an ear infection.
Who should be most careful about ear infections?
Ear infections can strike at any age, from young childhood to adults and the elderly. It’s easy to tell if adults have the issue, but problems can occur when it comes to babies, adolescents, young children, and sometimes seniors. It is, therefore, necessary to be able to quickly identify symptoms of ear infections to be treated to avoid further ear damage.
Signs may include:
- excessive pulling or scratching of the mouth
- slow response to voices
- ear secretion
- frequent earaches
- elevated ear pressure
- difficulty hearing speech
If you, your child, or a senior you know show any of the above symptoms, it is critical to seek out a healthcare professional. The longer you delay, the more harm it can do to the ear, which may result in temporary hearing loss.
How do ear infections potentially cause hearing loss?
Loss of hearing from ear infections are a kind of conductive hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss affects the outer or middle ear rather than the auditory nerve (as it occurs in sensorineural hearing loss).
There are three significant types of ear infections, and those classifications are based on the position of the disease in the ear. You may become infected with an outer, middle, or inner ear.
The types of ear infections that can cause a temporary or permanent loss of hearing include:
- Inflammation or ear canal infection (otitis externa):This dysfunction is also referred to as “swimmer’s ear.” Inflammation, swelling, or buildup in the ear canal can block the movement of sound to the middle ear. Hearing usually recovers after the infection has run its course.
- Inflammation of the middle ear (otitis media): Swelling and pus can block the movement of sound into the inner ear. Hearing usually recovers after the infection has gone out on its own. However, untreated middle ear infections can cause permanent damage to the central ear structures resulting in a permanent loss of hearing. This, however, is uncommon.
- Fluid in the space behind the eardrum (effusion otitis media): This can happen with or without an infection present. A fluid deposition may cause sound distortion or block its passage to the inner ear. Fluid behind the eardrum clears typically by itself, but if the liquid in the middle ear is infected, the eardrum can burst.
- A cochlear viral infection: This can trigger a sudden loss of hearing. Hearing loss may be temporary or permanent in these circumstances.
Good news: Conductive hearing loss is often treatable
What is reassuring about ear infections and conductive hearing loss is that it is typically temporary and generally subsides after treatment. Generally speaking, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics for your ear infections, and if treated correctly, your hearing will return to normal.
In cases where you have recurring ear infections, doctors or health care practitioners can insert tubes into your ear to drain fluid. Middle ear fluid buildup extraction significantly relieves the discomfort and pressure that comes with ear infections.
Although the vast majority of hearing losses from ear infections are temporary, if you are among the few people who have endured ear infections that have somehow perforated the eardrum, the loss of hearing may be permanent. This is extremely rare, however, and with a little help from an ENT doctor, you can rest assured that your ear infection will be healed quickly.