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    Can Ear Infections can lead to Hearing Loss?

    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:

    • Swimmer’s ear (Otitis externa)
      – It’s an infection of the outer ear canal. Swelling and inflammation of the
      ear canal, prevent sound from entering the middle ear, leading to temporary ear
      blockages.
    • Middle ear infection (Otitis
      media) - Pus and swelling in the middle ear prevent sound from reaching the
      inner ear.
    • Accumulation of fluid in the
      space behind the eardrum – Known as otitis media with effusion, the fluid leads
      to sound distortion.

    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
    Infections

    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:

    • Constant scratching or pulling
      at the ears
    • Secretions from the ear
    • Fever
    • Irritability
    • Slowed response to sounds and
      voices

    Symptoms in Adults:

    • Earaches
    • Dizziness or imbalance
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Difficulty in understanding
      speech
    • Constant pressure in the ears

    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.

    Conductive 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.

    When it comes to hearing aids, there are several models at varying prices. Make sure to read consumer reports of hearing aids to choose best-rated hearing aids that work for you.

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