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Say What? A Middle Ear Infection Can Cause Hearing Loss!

Hearing Loss

Ear infections are annoying, painful, and miserable. Even so, most people are shocked to learn middle ear infections have been linked to hearing loss. If you or a loved one sustains a middle ear infection without treating the problem, it has the ability to result in long-term damage to the structures within the middle ear.

This irreversible damage to the middle ear can cause permanent hearing loss. Let's take a closer look at the connections between middle ear infections and hearing loss as well as a few ways North Shore Hearing P.C. can help you experience your world more clearly.

What Are the Causes of Middle Ear Infections?

Any respiratory infection that makes its way to the Eustachian tube or middle ear area can — if not fought off relatively quickly by the body — produce a disabling effect upon the Eustachian tube. This is more common in young children since the Eustachian tube is shorter and more parallel to the jaw at the younger ages. Coupled with a weaker and still developing immune system, younger children are notoriously susceptible to middle ear infections.

If the infection is able to remain and disable the pressure-equalizing function of the Eustachian tube, negative pressure in the middle ear rises. This lack of pressure allows the secretions of the ear to build up and become infected. As the Eustachian tube is also prevented from performing mucus drainage, there is no way for the infected secretions to leave the middle ear, which results in a middle ear infection or an otitis media.

What Are the Symptoms of a Middle Ear Infection?  

In children, the symptoms of an ear infection may be less obvious, especially if they are not able to speak to describe the problem. Caregivers should look for:

  • Fever
  • Frequent manipulation of ears
  • Crying or fussiness
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    Secretions or moisture in the ear
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    Lessened response to sounds

In adults and children able to express the discomfort, common symptoms include: 

  • Aching in the ears
  • A sensation of pressure within the ear
  • Impaired hearing
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    Disequilibrium
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    Nausea and, in severe cases, vomiting

When these symptoms are noticed, it is time to pay a visit to a doctor. If left untreated, the infection could spread or the eardrum might burst.

Middle Ear Infection and Hearing Loss

Fortunately, permanent hearing loss from an ear infection is exceedingly rare and is usually accompanied by other factors. Depending on the severity of the infection and the time it takes to get treatment, temporary hearing impairment or loss may occur. This is especially true in cases where the eardrum bursts.

Most instances of hearing loss caused by a middle ear infection is the result of pus and swelling blocking the sound from moving to the inner ear. The majority of ear infections will get better on their own, but many people choose to speak to their primary care physician for antibiotics. Once the infection goes away, your hearing should return to normal on its own.

If the middle ear infection is left untreated, it can cause permanent damage to the structures within your middle ear. While rare, an untreated middle ear infection can lead to permanent hearing loss.

Treatment of Otitis Media

Middle ear infection and hearing loss can be prevented by timely treatment, which often includes antibiotics and decongestants. It is vital to complete the antibiotic course as prescribed even if symptoms have abated. This is because fluid may still remain in the ear and become reinfected. Once the Eustachian tube has been restored to working order, it will assist in draining

Preventing Ear Infections in Children with Tubing

When ear infections become recurrent, as can often happen in children, a doctor may opt for additional measures to help prevent re-infection. Pressure-equalizing tubing may be inserted to allow fluids to flow out of the ear. A minor surgical procedure, inserting tubes is highly effective and poses no long-term risks.

Tonsillectomies & Adenoidectomies

The presence of adenoids and tonsils may also help fuel ear infections due to their proximity to the Eustachian tube. If they are suspected to be major contributors to chronic infections, they can be removed. Tonsillectomies and adenoidectomies were once done routinely on children, but they have declined in frequency much the same way appendectomies have. They still represent a reasonable option to the chronic antibiotic usage that comes with persistent, recurrent ear infections.

Can a Middle Ear Infection Cause Hearing Loss?

Happily, the answer to this question is almost always no — so long as timely treatment is enacted. The main danger of frequent ear infections in children is they can prevent proper hearing during a formative time of life when language skills are being developed. While a middle ear infection can cause hearing loss, other more common causes of hearing loss include:

Contact North Shore Hearing P.C. for a Hearing Exam

Whether you suspect a middle ear infection has caused hearing loss or not, it's always a good time to visit the local hearing specialists at North Shore Hearing. We offer decades of experience and a full range of innovative hearing services designed to help you experience your world more clearly.  

Contact North Shore Hearing today to schedule your free hearing consultation.

Diane Faulknor, MA, CCC/A

After 18 years of experience in the field of audiology and hearing aid dispensing, I felt it was time to start my own practice which has led to the creation of North Shore Hearing, P.C. I take pride in the care I provide for my patients as hearing is not just a medical issues we need to deal with, but also the social and lifestyle ramifications that people with poor hearing live with on a day-to-day basis. Based on not only your hearing loss, but also the type of lifestyle you lead, we'll work together to fit you with the most appropriate hearing aid available in today's marketplace.