Ear Infections & Hearing Loss

ear infections poster

Public health concerns are on all of our minds right now. Although it’s always important to take our physical health seriously, the stakes are high right now. Some of us are inclined to avoid the doctor, thinking we will get better on our own. Indeed, the human body is remarkably equipped to heal itself under the right conditions. However, knowing the right time to seek medical attention is crucial to your general wellness and in order to avoid lasting effects of illness and injury. When it comes to our hearing health, you might think that there is nothing you can do to avoid hearing loss. Quite to the contrary, there are many steps you can take to protect your hearing, ranging from wearing hearing protection in dangerously loud environments to limiting your use of headphones and earbuds. One commonly overlooked potential source of hearing loss is an ear infection. The good news is that most ear infections do not lead to hearing loss and that even those that do tend to be temporary. Yet, in some severe cases, hearing loss can be permanent. Let’s consider the range of ear infections, which ones can be a risk to hearing, and how to know when you need to seek medical attention.

The Range of Ear Infections

In the mildest cases, ear infections can be minor conditions of swimmer’s ear that are remedied with homeopathic therapies, such as white vinegar, rubbing alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide. Children are particularly susceptible to these ear infections, in which bacteria-laden fluid is trapped in the outer ear, allowing it to fester and grow into a painful source of inflammation. These ear infections tend not to lead to any hearing loss, even temporarily. In more serious cases, the middle ear becomes the location of infection, a more damaging trap for bacteria. These cases of otitis media find fluid accumulating in the sensitive area of the ear canal that is usually air-filled, and that fluid can come from mucus, drainage, or other fluids associated with colds, viruses, or other infections. When a person contracts otitis media, the infection can lead to temporary hearing loss in the form of muffled, stuffed, or muted sounds due to the fluid build-up. In some cases the hearing loss can last longer than the infection itself, but it tends to be temporary.

Can Ear Infections Lead to Permanent Hearing Loss

As we have learned, most hearing loss that results from an ear infection is temporary. However, those who have serious ear infections that go without treatment can do permanent damage to the tympanic membrane, or eardrum. This condition, otherwise known as tympanosclerosis, results in a thickening or scarring of the eardrum. In order to avoid this kind of hearing loss, it is important to treat an ear infection right away. If you believe you have an ear infection, do not delay to seek diagnosis and treatment from a medical professional. It is possible to contract repeated ear infections, and proper treatment can also prevent a recurrent ear infection in the future.

What To Do about Hearing Loss

If you fear that you have hearing loss, whether due to an ear infection or for another reason, you can also consult with an audiologist or hearing health professional about the options available to you. The first step will be to get a hearing test to determine what hearing has been lost and in what ranges. Once your hearing health professional explains the nature of your hearing loss, this person can recommend a range of hearing aids that are suited to your needs. The latest models have remarkable new features, including Bluetooth compatibility, rechargeable batteries, and moisture resistance. With the guidance of a licensed professional, you can be paired with hearing aids that can help you hear more clearly, especially in the situations where you need assistance most. If you have hearing loss due to an ear infection, these aids can raise the entire level of volume, reduce the muffled sound, and even address problematic hearing conditions such as the struggle to understand conversations in noisy locations. Of course, it is essential to address the underlying condition of an ear infection first, and a medical professional should be the first line of recourse to get appropriate treatment right away.