What is generally referred to as an ear infection, is medically known as otitis media or AOM. These ear infections can have an effect on adults and children alike, particularly after a sinus infection or a cold. Even a bad tooth can trigger an ear infection.
When you have an infection in the middle ear you will most likely have at least some hearing loss, but will it go away? To find a precise answer can be rather complicated. There are many things happening with ear infections. You should learn how the damage caused by ear infections can have an impact on your hearing.
Otitis Media, Exactly What is it?
To put it simply, otitis media is an infection of the middle ear. Bacteria is the most common cause, but it may be caused by any micro-organism.
Ear infections are defined by where they appear in the ear. 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 term is labyrinthitis or inner ear infection.
The area in front of the cochlea but behind the eardrum is known as the middle ear. This area houses the three ossicles, or very small bones, that vibrate the membranes of the inner ear. An infection in this area tends to be very painful because it puts a lot of pressure on the eardrum, in most cases until it actually breaks. That pressure is also why you can’t hear very well. The infectious material accumulates and blocks the ear canal enough to obstruct the movement of sound waves.
A middle ear infection has the following symptoms:
- Leakage from the ear
- Pain in the ear
- Reduced hearing
Usually, hearing will come back eventually. The pressure goes away and the ear canal opens up. The issue will only be resolved when the infection is resolved. Sometimes there are complications, however.
Chronic Ear Infections
At least once in their life, most people get an ear infection. For others, the issues become chronic, so they have infections over and over. Because of complications, these people’s hearing loss is more serious and can possibly become permanent.
Conductive Hearing Loss From Ear Infections
Ear infections can lead to conductive hearing loss. In other words, sound waves can’t make it to the inner ear at the proper intensity. The ear has mechanisms along the canal that amplify the sound wave so by the time it gets to the tiny hair cells of the inner ear, it is strong enough to create a vibration. Sometimes things change along this route and the sound is not correctly amplified. This is known as conductive hearing loss.
Bacteria don’t simply sit and do nothing in the ear when you have an ear infection. They must eat to survive, so they break down those mechanisms that amplify sound waves. Usually, this kind of damage includes the eardrum and those tiny little bones. It doesn’t take very much to break down these fragile bones. Once they are gone, they stay gone. That’s permanent damage and your hearing won’t return on its own. In some cases, surgeons can put in prosthetic bones to repair hearing. The eardrum may have some scar tissue once it repairs itself, which will affect its ability to vibrate. Surgery can deal with that, also.
Can This Permanent Damage be Avoided?
It’s essential to see a doctor if you think you might have an ear infection. The sooner you get treatment, the better. Always get chronic ear infection examined by a doctor. The more serious the infections you have, the more harm they will cause. Finally, take the appropriate steps to lessen colds, allergies, and sinus infections because that is where ear infections normally start. If you are a smoker, now is the right time to quit, too, because smoking multiplies your risk of getting chronic respiratory troubles.
If you are still having difficulty hearing after getting an ear infection, consult a doctor. Other things can cause conductive hearing loss, but it may be possible that you may have some damage. Hearing aids are very helpful if you have permanent loss of hearing. You can schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist to get more info about hearing aids.