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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 well-known name, but it’s 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. If you have a bad tooth, that can also result in an ear infection.

When you get an infection in the middle ear you will usually have at least some loss of hearing, but will it go away? You might not realize it but the answer can be complicated. There are numerous variables to consider. There is damage which can be caused that you need to understand and also how that injury can impact your hearing.

Otitis Media, What is it?

Otitis media is an infection of the middle ear basically. Bacteria is the most likely cause, but it might be caused by any type of micro-organism.

The main way in which an infection is specified is by what part of the ear is infected. The outer ear, which is medically known as the pinna, is the part of the ear where swimmer’s ear develops, which is called otitis externa. If the bacterial growth occurs in the cochlea, the medical term is labyrinthitis or inner ear infection.

The area in front of the cochlea but behind the eardrum is called the middle ear. The three little bones in this area, called ossicles, are responsible for vibrating the membranes of the inner ear. The eardrum can actually break due to the pressure from this sort of infection, which is likely to be extremely painful. This pressure is not only very painful, it also causes hearing loss. The ear canal can be plugged by infectious material that will then cause a loss of hearing.

A middle ear infection has the following symptoms:

  • Ear drainage
  • Pain in the ear
  • Reduced hearing

Eventually, hearing will return for most people. The ear canal will open up and hearing will come back. This will only happen when the infection is resolved. Sometimes there are complications, however.

Chronic Ear Infections

Ear infections affect most people at least once in their lifetime. For some others, the issues become chronic, so they have infections over and over. Chronic ear infections can cause complications that mean a more significant and maybe even permanent loss of hearing, especially if the problem is neglected.

Conductive Hearing Loss Caused by Ear Infections

Conductive hearing loss can be caused by repeated ear infections. When this happens the inner ear can’t get sound waves at the proper strength. By the time the sound reaches the tiny hairs in the inner ear, they are amplified by the mechanisms of the ear canal and reach their maximum power. Sometimes things change along this route and the sound is not properly amplified. This is known as conductive hearing loss.

Bacteria are very busy inside your ear when you have an ear infection. The components that amplify sound waves are broken down and eaten by the bacteria. The eardrum and the tiny little bones are what is usually affected. The bones are very fragile and it doesn’t take much to destroy them. Once they are gone, they stay gone. When this happens your ears don’t heal themselves. In certain cases, surgeons can install prosthetic bones to repair hearing. The eardrum might have scar tissue once it repairs itself, which will impact its ability to vibrate. Surgery can correct that, as well.

What Can You do to Prevent This Permanent Hearing Loss?

It’s important to see a doctor if you think you might have an ear infection. You shouldn’t wait if you want to protect your hearing. If you have chronic ear infections, don’t ignore them. More damage will be caused by more severe infections. Ear infections typically start with allergies, sinus infections, and colds so take steps to prevent them. It’s time to quit smoking because it leads to chronic respiratory problems which can, in turn, lead to ear infections.

If you are still having problems hearing after having an ear infection, see a doctor. Other things can cause conductive hearing loss, but you may have some damage. Hearing aids are very helpful if you have permanent loss of hearing. To get more information about hearing aids, schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist.