Can ear infections cause hearing loss?

There are many different factors that can cause hearing loss, such as aging, injury, noise exposure, heredity and infection. The most common type of hearing loss, referred to as sensorineural hearing loss, will occur when these factors affect the auditory nerve. Hearing loss can also be caused by ear infections - a type of loss known as conductive hearing loss. When the ear is infected, fluid can build up in the middle ear, affecting and obstructing the eardrum and the tiny bones attached to it.

Ear infections can be one cause of conductive hearing loss

Sensorineural hearing loss is caused when the auditory nerve is affected. However, conductive hearing loss affects the outer and/or middle ear. A common cause of conductive hearing loss is an obstruction in the middle ear. Middle ear movements send sounds to the auditory nerve. Hearing loss occurs when an obstruction prevents sounds from passing through the middle ear. Fluid in the middle ear, wax buildup or a hole in the eardrum can all cause conductive hearing loss.

Anatomy of the ear diagram

The medical term for a middle ear infection is “Otitis media”. When infection causes a buildup of fluid, the eardrum and ossicular chain fail to work together, making it difficult to move sound to the auditory nerve. The ossicular chain, located in the middle ear, is made up of the three smallest bones in your body. These bones are called the malleus, incus and stapes, each being as small as a grain of rice.

Hearing loss due to ear infection often subsides

Ear infection hearing loss is usually temporary and goes away after treatment. Antibiotics may be prescribed by your physician to treat the ear infection. Your hearing should return to normal if the antibiotics are successful in treating the infection. However, if you have a recurrent history of ear infections, a tube may be inserted in your eardrum by your physician to aid in draining the fluid.

Pain and pressure that can accompany an ear infection are often relieved by eliminating the buildup of fluid. It can also help prevent the eardrum from rupturing. The eardrum can rupture if fluid builds up without being resolved.

Recurrent ear infections can also lead to Tympanosclerosis, which is the thickening or scarring of the tympanic membrane. Tympanosclerosis along with a perforated eardrum negatively affects the eardrum’s mobility and reduces hearing acuity. Your physician may recommend hearing aids to treat the unresolved hearing loss if your hearing doesn’t return to normal.

What to do if you’re experiencing hearing loss

If you’re experiencing hearing loss, getting your hearing tested by a professional is important. Your hearing professional will evaluate the type and degree of hearing loss you have. Following this, they’ll be able to discuss the best course of treatment for your particular needs and lifestyle. Call 1-855-970-2990 or click here to find a hearing professional in your area.

By Starkey Canada

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