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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 referred to as an ear infection, is medically called otitis media or AOM. Ear infections are especially prevalent after a sinus infection or cold and they don’t only affect children but adults as well. If you have a bad tooth, that can also result in an ear infection.

Just how long will loss of hearing persist after an infection of the middle ear? You might not realize it but the answer can be complicated. There are many variables to consider. You should learn how the damage caused by ear infections can have an impact on your hearing.

Just what is Otitis Media?

Simply put, otitis media is an infection of the middle ear. It could possibly be any kind of microorganism causing the infection however bacteria is the most common.

It’s what part of the ear that the infection happens in that defines it. The outer ear, which is medically known as the pinna, is where swimmer’s ear develops, which is called otitis externa. The term labyrinthitis refers to an infection of the cochlea or inner ear.

The middle ear is comprised of the space behind the eardrum but in front of the cochlea. The membranes of the inner ear are vibrated by three tiny bones called ossicles which are housed in this area. The eardrum can actually break as a result of the pressure from this type of infection, which tends to be quite painful. Your inability to hear very well is also because of this pressure. Sound waves are then obstructed by the accumulation of infectious material inside of the ear canal.

A middle ear infection has the following symptoms:

  • Ear drainage
  • Ear pain
  • Reduced ability to hear

Over time, hearing will come back for the majority of people. Hearing will return after the pressure dissipates enabling the ear canal to open up. The issue will only be resolved when the infection gets better. There are some exceptions, however.

Repeated Ear Infections

At least once in their life, most people experience an ear infection. The problem can become chronic for some people and they will keep getting ear infections. Chronic ear infections can cause problems that mean a more significant and possibly permanent loss of hearing, especially if the problem is left untreated.

Conductive Hearing Loss From Chronic Ear Infections

Ear infections can sometimes lead to conductive hearing loss. As a result, the sound waves going to the inner ear are not loud enough. 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. When you have conductive hearing loss, something changes along that route and the sound isn’t amplified quite as much.

Bacteria are very busy inside your ear when you have an ear infection. The mechanisms that amplify sound waves are decomposed and eaten by the bacteria. The eardrum and the tiny little bones are what is commonly affected. It doesn’t take very much to break down these delicate bones. These bones will never come back once they are gone. When this occurs 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 scar tissue after it repairs itself, which will affect its ability to move. Surgery can deal with that, also.

Can This Permanent Damage be Prevented?

It’s essential to see a doctor when you think you may have an ear infection. You shouldn’t wait if you want to protect your hearing. Also, don’t overlook chronic ear infections. The more serious the infections you have, the more harm they cause. Ear infections usually start with allergies, sinus infections, and colds so take measures to prevent them. It’s time to stop smoking because it leads to chronic respiratory problems which will, in turn, lead to ear infections.

If you’ve had an ear infection and are still having trouble hearing, see your doctor. Other things can cause conductive hearing loss, but it may be possible that you may have some damage. If you find out that it’s permanent, hearing aids will help you hear again. You should schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist to get more information on hearing aids.