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Woman recovers her hearing after an ear infection and listens to her grandaughter whisper something in her ear.

What is commonly labeled as an ear infection, is medically known as otitis media or AOM. These ear infections can affect adults and children alike, particularly after a cold or sinus infection. If you have a bad tooth, that can also result in an ear infection.

Exactly how long will loss of hearing last after having an infection of the middle ear? The answer to this question may be more complex than you think. Ear infections have a lot of things happening. You should understand how the damage caused by ear infections can end up affecting your hearing.

Just what is Otitis Media?

The easiest way to comprehend otitis media is that it’s an infection of the middle ear. It could possibly be any type of microorganism causing the infection however bacteria is the most common.

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

The middle ear is comprised of the space behind the eardrum but in front of the cochlea. 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, often until it actually breaks. Your failure to hear very well is also because of this pressure. The infectious material builds up and blocks the ear canal enough to interfere with the movement of sound waves.

The signs or symptoms of a middle ear infection in an adult include:

  • Drainage from the ear
  • Ear pain
  • Decreased hearing

Usually, hearing will return eventually. The ear canal will open back up and hearing will return. The infection gets better and your hearing returns. Sometimes there are complications, though.

Chronic Ear Infections

The majority of people get an ear infection at least once in their life. For other people, the issues become chronic, so they have infections again and again. Because of complications, these people’s hearing loss is more serious and can possibly become permanent.

Conductive Hearing Loss Caused by Ear Infections

Conductive hearing loss can be caused by chronic ear infections. Put simply, sound waves can’t make it to the inner ear with enough 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 strength. Sometimes things change along this route and the sound is not properly amplified. This is known as conductive hearing loss.

Bacteria don’t merely sit and do nothing in the ear when you have an ear infection. They need to eat to live and multiply, so they break down those mechanisms that amplify sound waves. The eardrum and the tiny little bones are what is commonly affected. The bones are very fragile and it doesn’t take much to break them up. These bones will never come back once they are gone. When this takes place your ears don’t heal themselves. Surgically putting in prosthetic bones is one possible way that a doctor may be able to correct this. The eardrum may have some scar tissue once it repairs itself, which will affect its ability to move. Surgery can correct that, also.

What Can You do to Prevent This Permanent Hearing Loss?

Most importantly, consult a doctor if you believe you have an ear infection. The sooner you get treatment, the better. Always have chronic ear infection checked by a doctor. The more severe the infections you have, the more harm they will cause. Ear infections typically begin with allergies, sinus infections, and colds so take measures to avoid them. If you smoke, now is the right time to stop, too, because smoking multiplies your risk of getting chronic respiratory issues.

If you are still having trouble hearing after getting an ear infection, consult a doctor. It is possible you have some damage, but that is not the only thing that causes conductive hearing loss. If you find out that it’s permanent, hearing aids will help you hear again. You can schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist to get more info on hearing aids.

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