Hearing loss can be caused by so many different things like aging, head trauma, over-exposure to noise, genetics, or you can be born with it. These things impact the auditory nervous system, which results in sensorineural hearing loss. This is the most prevalent form of hearing loss. It happens when there’s damage to the inner ear nerves and hair cells that are caused by aging or noise damage. There is usually no medication or surgical procedure that can correct this, but hearing aids are a common form of treatment.
There is another, lesser-known type of hearing loss. This is called conductive hearing loss. This form of hearing loss impacts the outer or middle ear, unlike sensorineural hearing loss, which affects the auditory nerve. A blockage in the middle ear usually causes conductive hearing loss.
Conductive Hearing Loss Caused by Ear Infections
When the middle ear is vibrating, sounds are sent to your auditory nerve. Any blockage can hinder sounds from traveling through the middle ear and lead to hearing loss. An infection in the middle ear can lead to the build-up of fluid, restricting the vibration of the eardrum and the tiny bones connected to it.
Impacted earwax, fluid build-up in the middle ear, or a hole in the eardrum can also lead to conductive hearing loss.
The medical term for a middle ear infection is “otitis media”. This type of infection can lead to fluid build-up, and make it challenging for the eardrum and ossicular chain to cooperate and transfer sounds to the auditory nerve. The ossicular chain located in the middle ear is the three smallest bones in your body. They are called the malleus, incus, and stapes bone. Each of these bones is about the size of a single grain of rice.
Can an Ear Infection cause Hearing Loss?
When you talk about an ear infection, it typically refers to a middle ear infection or acute otitis media. This type of infection involves the area behind the eardrum where the three hearing bones (ossicles) are located. A person with this type of infection may need medical treatment, but it usually resolves itself naturally.
A mild form of conductive hearing loss can be temporary while the infection is still thriving. Permanent hearing loss is NOT usually a cause for concern. In some cases, if there are a number of long-term infections, the eardrum or middle ear can be permanently damaged and cause permanent hearing loss. Seek treatment immediately if you feel pain in your ears or sense an ear infection.
Hearing Loss Caused by Ear Infections, For the Most Part, Are Temporary
Hearing loss that is caused by an ear infection is normally temporary and goes away when it is treated. You may be given antibiotics. If they work, your hearing should revert back to normal. If you have a history of ear infections, fluid may be drained from your ears.
Getting rid of fluid buildup can bring relief to the pain and pressure that usually comes with an ear infection and can stop the eardrum from rupturing. If fluid continues to build up without any intervention, the pressure can lead to a rupture in the eardrum.
Recurring episodes of ear infections can lead to tympanosclerosis. This is when the tympanic membrane becomes thick and will scar. A perforated eardrum and tympanosclerosis can affect the eardrum’s function and worsen the ability to hear. If treatments from a primary care physician do not resolve the problem, hearing aids may be recommended.
If you, or a loved one, are experiencing hearing loss caused by an ear infection or for any other reason, contact us at Pure Sound Hearing for a complimentary hearing test and consultation.