Ear infections are one of the most common reasons why
people visit the hospital. From infants to adults, it can affect all ages.
There are plenty of reasons for ear infections – cold, sinusitis, toothaches,
swimming. But, does it lead to permanent hearing loss? Let's find out the link
between ear infections and hearing troubles.
What is an ear
infection, and how does it impact hearing?
Though commonly referred to as ear infection, the
medical term for it is Otitis Medis or AOM. Depending on where it occurs, it
can be classified as follows:
Apart from these, ear infections can also occur due to
viral infections. An infection of the cochlea (the main organ responsible for
hearing) can lead to sudden hearing loss. Cochlear infections may lead to
partial, irreversible hearing losses.
Symptoms of Ear
If you’re concerned that your child or an adult family
member is having an ear infection, look out for these signs:
Symptoms in Children:
Symptoms in Adults:
What happens in
your ear when it's infected?
When an ear infection occurs, bacteria, virus, or
other micro-organisms start growing in the delicate canals of the ear. These
organisms need food to survive and start chewing the eardrum, the tiny little
bones of the ear, cochlea, and other parts.
As parts of the inner ear are highly fragile, the
overgrowth of bacteria can damage them permanently. Once damaged, the parts of
the ear cannot regenerate, leading to loss of hearing.
Can Ear Infections
lead to Permanent Hearing Loss?
Generally, no. Most ear infections go away on their
own or with the help of OTC medications. In rare cases, if left untreated, it
can result in permanent hearing loss.
People who are prone to chronic ear infections may
have a loss of hearing. Chronic ear infections damage the functioning of the
auditory nerves. When this occurs, the nerves fail to amplify sound waves to
the right levels, leading to loss of hearing.
Loss due to Ear Infections
Generally, most ear infections lead to a temporary
conductive hearing loss. Let’s take a closer look at the working of the middle
ear to see what happens when your ear is infected.
The middle ear receives sounds from the outer ear
canal and passes it to the auditory nerve. An infection causes a block in the
middle ear, which prevents sounds from passing through. Accumulation of wax,
fluids, or bacteria in the ear canal leads to conductive hearing loss.
Most conductive hearing losses are temporary and can
be treated with generic OTC medications. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics
that treat the infection. Once the inflammation caused by the infection
subsides, the hearing loss returns to normal.
What to do if you
have trouble hearing due to an ear infection?
You must consult your doctor immediately and have your
hearing tested. If the hearing does not return to normal after treating the
infection, the physician may refer you to a hearing professional. The hearing
professional runs several diagnostic tests to determine the loss of hearing and
what needs to be done.
In most cases, the hearing professional prescribes medicines to treat the loss of hearing. If that’s not possible, he/she may require you to buy hearing aids online or at a dispensary.