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

An ear infection is the typical name, but it’s medically called otitis media or AOM. These ear infections can have an affect on children as well as adults, particularly after a sinus infection or a cold. If you have a bad tooth, that can also lead to an ear infection.

How long will loss of hearing last after an infection of the middle ear? To find a precise answer can be rather complicated. There are a number of variables to take into consideration. You should learn 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 be any kind of microorganism causing the infection but bacteria is the most common.

It’s what part of the ear that the infection develops in that identifies it. When the infection is in the pinna, or outer ear, or in the front of the eardrum, the condition is called otitis externa or swimmer’s ear. The term labyrinthitis is the term for an infection of the cochlea or inner ear.

The space in front of the cochlea but behind the eardrum is known as the middle ear. The three tiny bones in this area, known as ossicles, are responsible for vibrating the membranes of the inner ear. An infection in this part of the ear tends to be very painful because it puts a lot of pressure on the eardrum, usually until it actually breaks. This pressure is not only very painful, it causes a loss of hearing. The infectious material builds up and blocks the ear canal enough to obstruct the movement of sound waves.

A middle ear infection has the following symptoms:

  • Ear drainage
  • Pain in the ear
  • Decreased hearing

For the majority of people, hearing returns over time. The ear canal will then open back up and hearing will return. The infection gets resolved and your hearing returns. Sometimes there are complications, however.

Repeated Ear Infections

Ear infections happen to most people at least once in their lifetime. The issues can become chronic for some people and they will keep having ear infections. Because of complications, these people’s hearing loss is more serious and can even become permanent.

Conductive Hearing Loss Caused by Chronic Ear Infections

Conductive hearing loss can be brought on by repeated ear infections. Essentially, sound waves can’t make it to the inner ear at the proper intensity. The ear has components along the canal that amplify the sound wave so by the time it reaches the tiny hair cells of the inner ear, it is intense enough to trigger a vibration. Sometimes something changes along this route and the sound is not correctly amplified. This is called conductive hearing loss.

When you get an ear infection, bacteria are not just sitting in your ear doing nothing. The components that amplify sound waves are broken down and eaten by the bacteria. The eardrum and the tiny little bones are what is normally affected. The bones are very fragile and it doesn’t take much to destroy them. If you suffer a loss of these bones it’s permanent. That’s permanent damage and your hearing won’t return on its own. In some cases, surgeons can install prosthetic bones to fix hearing. The eardrum may have some scar tissue once it repairs itself, which can influence its ability to vibrate. This can also potentially be repaired with surgery.

Can This Permanent Damage be Prevented?

Most significantly, see a doctor if you believe you have an ear infection. You shouldn’t wait if you want to preserve your hearing. Always have chronic ear infection examined by a doctor. The more serious the infections you have, the more damage they cause. Finally, take the appropriate steps to prevent colds, allergies, and sinus infections because that is where ear infections normally start. It’s time to quit smoking because it leads to chronic respiratory issues which can, in turn, lead to ear infections.

If you are still having trouble hearing after getting an ear infection, see a doctor. Other things can cause conductive hearing loss, but you may have some damage. Hearing aids can be very helpful if you have permanent loss of hearing. To get more information about hearing aids, schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist.