Can Ear Infections Damage Your Hearing?

Can Ear Infections Damage Your Hearing?

The main causes of hearing impairment are aging, noise exposure, and hereditary predispositions. Though not common, chronic, untreated ear infections, known as otitis media, may also cause hearing damage. An infection in the middle ear can cause fluid to build up, obstructing the movement of the eardrum. Hearing loss resulting from damage to the eardrum is referred to as "conductive hearing loss."

 

Who Is Prone to Ear Infections?

Ear infections can happen to anyone, but younger children are more prone due to weaker immune systems and smaller, more horizontal eustachian tubes, which connect the ears to the nose and throat. These anatomical differences make it harder for fluid to drain. Five out of six children experience at least one ear infection by the age of three years, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Symptoms and Treatments of Ear Infections

Ear infections can temporarily affect hearing. This can be unsettling, but it most often doesn’t result in any permanent hearing loss. In addition to changes in hearing, the most common symptoms include ear pain, irritability, ear discharge, and a feeling of fullness in the ear. A doctor may recommend ear tube surgery for recurrent ear infections and lingering middle ear fluid. This is a minor surgery that entails making an incision in the eardrum to drain fluid and often attaching a tube to help drain the middle ear, which may be in place for months or years. Addressing chronic infections is important, especially in children, because experiencing stretches of mild hearing loss may affect their speech and language learning.

Getting a Hearing Diagnosis

Hearing tests are painless and non-invasive procedures that take place in a quiet, sound-treated room that keeps out any other noises. The room also has specially placed speakers used for testing babies and toddlers. The patient wears headphones connected to an audiometer while an audiogram determines the softest sounds the patient can hear at different pitches. The hearing consultants use the audiogram results to assess the patient’s hearing and recommend appropriate treatments.

If you or your child has had changes in hearing or symptoms of ear infections, see a professional to help determine the cause and clear up the infection. The audiologists at Hearing Consultants of Colorado Springs pride ourselves on our personalized and professional services, and we can help if you or your child has difficulty hearing. Call us at (719) 633-1494 to schedule an appointment with our team.