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

What is typically known as an ear infection, is medically known as otitis media or AOM. Ear infections like this are usually seen in infants and young children but they can affect adults, as well, especially during or after a cold or sinus infection. You can even get an ear infection from a bad tooth.

Exactly how long will hearing loss last after you get an infection of the middle ear? To come up with a precise answer can be fairly complicated. There are many things going on with ear infections. There is damage which can be caused that you need to understand and also how this damage can affect your hearing.

Exactly what is Otitis Media?

To put it simply, otitis media is an infection of the middle ear. It could be any type of microorganism causing the infection however bacteria is the most common.

It’s what part of the ear that the infection develops in that defines it. The outer ear, which is medically known as the pinna, is the part of the ear where swimmer’s ear occurs, which is called otitis externa. An inner ear infection, also called labyrinthitis is caused by bacteria in the cochlea.

The space behind the eardrum but in front of the cochlea is called 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 area tends to be very painful because it puts pressure on the eardrum, in most cases until it breaks. This pressure is not only painful, it also causes a loss of hearing. Sound waves are then hindered by the accumulation of infectious material in the ear canal.

A middle ear infection includes the following symptoms:

  • Leakage from the ear
  • Pain in the ear
  • Reduced hearing

Usually, hearing will return in the course of time. The ear canal will open back up and hearing will return. This will only happen when the infection is resolved. There are some exceptions, however.

Chronic Ear Infections

At least once in their life, most people get an ear infection. Some people, however, will get ear infections again and again so they become chronic. Because of complications, these people’s hearing loss is worse and can even become permanent.

Conductive Hearing Loss Caused by Ear Infections

Ear infections can cause conductive hearing loss. When this happens, the sound waves going to the inner ear are not loud enough. The ear has mechanisms along the canal which amplify the sound wave so that when it gets to the tiny hair cells of the inner ear, it is intense enough to cause a vibration. Sometimes things change along this route and the sound is not correctly amplified. This is known as conductive hearing loss.

Bacteria don’t just sit and behave themselves inside the ear when you have an ear infection. They need to eat to survive, so they break down those components that amplify sound waves. The eardrum and the tiny little bones are what is usually affected. The bones are very fragile and it doesn’t take much to destroy them. If you lose these bones they don’t grow back. That’s permanent damage and your hearing won’t return on its own. Surgically installing prosthetic bones is one possible way that a doctor may be able to fix this. The eardrum might have scar tissue after it repairs itself, which will impact its ability to vibrate. Surgery can fix that, also.

What Can You do to Prevent This Permanent Hearing Loss?

First and foremost, see a doctor if you think you have an ear infection. You shouldn’t wait if you want to protect your hearing. Also, don’t overlook chronic ear infections. The more severe the infections you have, the more damage they cause. Ear infections normally start with allergies, sinus infections, and colds so take steps to prevent them. It’s time to give up smoking because it leads to chronic respiratory issues which can, in turn, lead to ear infections.

If you’ve had an ear infection and are still having problems hearing, call your doctor. It could be possible that you have some damage, but that is not the only thing that causes conductive hearing loss. Hearing aids can be very helpful if you have permanent hearing loss. You can schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist to get more info about hearing aids.