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Can An Ear Infection Damage Your Hearing

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Common Signs And Symptoms Of An Outerear Infection Include:

Reversing Hearing Loss Caused by Ear Infection AMITA Health
  • Ear pain
  • Redness
  • Swelling

Ear infections can lead to pain and swelling in the ear canal, which can prevent a hearing aid from fitting comfortably. The infection can also affect the quality of hearing, making certain types of hearing aids uncomfortable to wear. This can last for several days and sometimes even weeks.

Can An Ear Infection Cause Hearing Loss

If you notice sounds seem muffled or distorted, you may be searching for a reason as to why. According to UnityPoint Health, ear infections account for more than 30 million trips to the doctor every year in the United States. Ear infections can cause hearing lossâbut in most cases, itâs temporary. Letâs explore this more.

What Causes Hearing Loss After Ear Infection

In cases of an ear infection, the inflammation blocks the sound from passing through the ear canal from the middle ear into the inner ear. In this case, this hearing loss is known as a conductive hearing loss. The sounds are often heard as indistinctive and muffed. The probability of an ear infection to cause hearing loss will depend on the severity, frequency, and type of the ear infection.

The ear infection can affect all the three parts of the ear: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear.

1. Otitis Externa

Otitis externa is an infection of the outer ear canal. In cases when the infection and inflammation of the outer ear occur, the swelling and the buildup of pus will stop the sounds from moving from the outer ear to the middle ear, resulting in hearing problems. Once the infection is treated or once the wax is cleared, the hearing will usually return to normality.

2. Otitis Media

Otitis media is an infection of the middle ear. Once the infection of the middle ear is treated, the hearing will return to normality. However, if the infection is not diagnosed and treated on time, the swelling and the collection of pus can lead to permanent and irreversible damage of the middle ear structures. If the infection of the middle ear persists, antibiotic treatment is necessary.

3. Viral Infection of the Cochlea

Note: You can never predict a hearing loss after ear infection, so diagnosis and treatment on time are very important.

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Why Do Children Get Many More Ear Infections Than Adults Will My Child Always Get Ear Infections

Children are more likely than adults to get ear infections for these reasons:

  • The eustachian tubes in young children are shorter and more horizontal. This shape encourages fluid to gather behind the eardrum.
  • The immune system of children, which in the bodys infection-fighting system, is still developing.
  • The adenoids in children are relatively larger than they are in adults. The adenoids are the small pads of tissue above the throat and behind the nose and near the eustachian tubes. As they swell to fight infection, they may block the normal ear drainage from the eustachian tube into the throat. This blockage of fluid can lead to a middle ear infection.

Most children stop getting ear infections by age 8.

Are Hearing Aid Wearers More Likely To Get Ear Infections

This Type of Ear Infection Could Cause Major Damage to ...

Wearinga hearing aid does not necessarily cause ear infections. However, without theuse of proper cleaning and care of a hearing aid, those that wear them may bemore susceptible to ear infections. Additionally, if a hearing aid does not fitproperly in the ear or is uncomfortable to wear, the ear canal may becomescratched or irritated, which may lead to an infection.

Onestudy investigated the presence or absence of bacterial and fungalmicroorganisms on the surface of hearing aids . Researcherscollected specimen from the custom hearing aids of ten participants. Resultsindicated light to moderate amounts of 10 different bacteria and 3 fungi fromthe hearing aids examined in the study. Each of the 10 hearing aids containedat least one bacterium, with Coag Neg staphylococcus recovered from 9 of the 10hearing aids.

Theinvestigation stressed that it was not designed to determine cause and effect therefore, the data that was obtained did not identify hearing aids as a coursefor the spread of disease. However, the results discovered in the study mightmake hearing aids wearers want to establish a proper cleaning routine for theirhearing aids to avoid infection.

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How Are Ear Infections Treated

Treating a middle ear infection usually involves two steps: Treating the pain, and then, if symptoms dont improve, prescribing antibiotic medication to fight the infection. Doctors sometimes wait to prescribe antibiotics because an otherwise healthy child may be able to fight the infection on their own, helping a child avoid side effects and other risks of antibiotics.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends focusing on pain management for the first 1 to 2 days before prescribing antibiotics. Over-the-counter ibuprofen and acetaminophen are recommended for pain relief, and occasionally ear drops that contain pain medicine.

Doctors sometimes wait to prescribe antibiotics, because the infection may clear up on its own.

If a doctor prescribes antibiotics to treat a middle ear infection, it is usually amoxicillin. This oral antibiotic works to destroy the infection. Over time, inflammation will get better, and the Eustachian tubes can properly ventilate the middle ear.

Until the backed-up fluids have cleared, your child is prone to recurrent infections. It is important to take the entire course of prescribed antibioticseven though the symptoms may have subsided. Older children may report being able to hear better several days after they have resumed normal activities. This is a sign that the fluid build-up has resolved.

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Can Ear Infections Cause Permanent Damage To Your Hearing

Most of us will have an ear infection at some point in our lives. We generally see them as a nuisance. Theyre painful in fact, they can be extremely painful indeed but thankfully short lived. Milder cases will clear up on their own others may require intervention via antibiotics. However, its usually a week long problem that we tend to forget about as soon as its resolved.

However, ear infections and especially repeat ear infections should be treated with a little more caution than this. First, lets define what an ear infection actually is.

There are two types of ear infections:

Otitis Externa An infection of the outer ear and the surrounding shell. This is often referred to as swimmers ear and is generally on the milder end of the spectrum.

Otitis Media In this case, the infection is deeper in the ear and can potentially perforate the eardrum. Otitis media is often more painful, and tends to be characterized by this pain and a significant level of discharge from the ear.

While otitis externa is an unpleasant experience, when it comes to complications, this is for want of a better phrase, the better infection. Otitis media, on the other hand, can have long-ranging complications that could lead to permanent hearing loss.

Wait What? An Ear Infection Could Cause You To Lose Your Hearing?

Why Does This Happen?

What If Ive Ignored Infections In The Past?

So Always Take Antibiotics For An Ear Infection?

Middle Ear Infections And Hearing Loss

Can ear infections cause hearing loss?

Otitis media is a bacterial middle ear infection that causes inflammation and a build-up of fluid behind the eardrum. This fluid build-up can block the middle ear, causing temporary hearing loss. This usually resolves on its own in less than a week, but more serious cases can lead to permanent hearing loss from damage to the eardrum or surrounding nerves, although this is rare.

Anyone can experience otitis media, but it mostly affects children because their immune systems tend to be weaker and the tubes in their middle ear tend to be smaller, and more prone to infection.1, 2 You can find out more about ear infections in children here.

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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.

How Is An Ear Infection Diagnosed

Ear exam

Your healthcare provider will look at your or your childs ear using an instrument called an otoscope. A healthy eardrum will be pinkish gray in color and translucent . If infection is present, the eardrum may be inflamed, swollen or red.

Your healthcare provider may also check the fluid in the middle ear using a pneumatic otoscope, which blows a small amount of air at the eardrum. This should cause the eardrum to move back and forth. The eardrum will not move as easily if there is fluid inside the ear.

Another test, tympanometry, uses air pressure to check for fluid in the middle ear. This test doesnt test hearing. If needed, your healthcare provider will order a hearing test, performed by an audiologist, to determine possible hearing loss if you or your child has had long lasting or frequent ear infections or fluid in the middle ears that is not draining.

Other checks

Your healthcare provider will also check your throat and nasal passage and listen to your breathing with a stethoscope for signs of upper respiratory infections.

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How Long Does Hearing Loss Last After Infection

Hearing loss caused by an ear infection is usually temporary and goes away on its own after a few days. If symptoms persist for more than a week, then its important to see a doctor or audiologist who can provide further treatment. Antibiotics can clear up the infection, or if you have a history of recurrent ear infections, the fluid build-up within the ear can be drained.

If you have noticed a recent change in your hearing, then its best to have your symptoms checked. Take our free online hearing test to check how good your hearing is or contact your nearest Specsavers store to speak to an audiologist.


1. Monasta L, Ronfani L, Marchetti F, et al. Burden of disease caused by otitis media: systematic review and global estimates. PLoS One. 2012 7:e36226. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0036226

2. Nielsen MC, Friis M, Martin-Bertelsen T, Winther O, Friis-Hansen L, Cayé-Thomasen P. The middle ear immune defense changes with age. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2016 273:81-86. doi:10.1007/s00405-015-3493-0

3. Mazlan R, Saim L, Thomas A, Said R, Liyab B. Ear infection and hearing loss amongst headphone users. Malays J Med Sci. 2002 9:17-22.

4. Okuyama Y, Baba A, Ojiri H, Nakajima T. Surfer’s ear. Clin Case Rep. 2017 5:1028-1029. Published 2017 Apr 4. doi:10.1002/ccr3.929

Southern Cross Medical Library

Ear Infections &  Hearing Loss

The purpose of the Southern Cross Medical Library is to provide information of a general nature to help you better understand certain medical conditions. Always seek specific medical advice for treatment appropriate to you. This information is not intended to relate specifically to insurance or healthcare services provided by Southern Cross. For more articles go to the Medical Library index page.

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Integrated Ear Nose And Throat Of Lone Tree Colorado

Chronic ear infections refer to both an ear infection that does not heal or to recurring ear infections. A chronic ear infection affects the middle ear and develops when fluid or an infection behind the eardrum does not go away.

Otitis Media refers to inflammation of the middle ear. When an abrupt infection occurs, the condition is called acute otitis media. This condition occurs when a cold, allergy, virus, or the presence of bacteria leads to the accumulation of pus and mucus behind the eardrum, thus blocking the Eustachian tube. This can cause earache and fever.

When fluid sits in the middle ear for weeks, the condition is known as otitis media with effusion. This condition occurs in a recovering ear infection. Fluid can remain in the ear for weeks to many months. If not treated, chronic ear infections have potentially serious consequences, such as temporary hearing loss.

Children Have More Ear Infections Than Adults

To understand earaches and ear infections, you must first know about the Eustachian tube. The Eustachian tube is a narrow channel connecting the inside of the ear to the back of the throat, just above the soft palate and uvula. The tube allows drainage of fluid from the middle ear, preventing fluid from building up and bursting the thin eardrum. In a healthy ear, the fluid drains down the tube, assisted by tiny hair cells, and is swallowed.

Otitis Media Affects Hearing

Types of Hearing Loss

Reasons for Hearing Loss

How Is An Ear Infection Treated

Treatment of ear infections depends on age, severity of the infection, the nature of the infection and if fluid remains in the middle ear for a long period of time.

Your healthcare provider will recommend medications to relieve you or your childs pain and fever. If the ear infection is mild, depending on the age of the child, your healthcare provider may choose to wait a few days to see if the infection goes away on its own before prescribing an antibiotic.


Antibiotics may be prescribed if bacteria are thought to be the cause of the ear infection. Your healthcare provider may want to wait up to three days before prescribing antibiotics to see if a mild infection clears up on its own when the child is older. If your or your childs ear infection is severe, antibiotics might be started right away.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended when to prescribe antibiotics and when to consider waiting before prescribing based on your childs age, severity of their infection, and your childs temperature. Their recommendations are shown in the table below.

American Academy of Pediatrics Treatment Guide for Acute Otitis Media

Childs Age
in one or both ears Mild for < 48 hours and temp < 102.2° F Treat with antibiotic OR observe. If observe, start antibiotics if child worsens or doesnt improve within 48 to 72 hours of start of symptoms

Pain-relieving medications

Ear tubes

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Diagnosing Acute Otitis Media In Adults

An adult sufferer usually reports some hearing loss as their infection develops. However, the most alarming symptom may be an acute pain, when they blow their nose to clear the mucus from an accompanying upper respiratory infection.

This is an indication their eustacian tube is blocked, or their tympanic membrane ear drum is inflamed and draining fluid. A child or adult can become mildly-to-moderately deaf from an ear infection, and therefore need urgent medical attention before something like this happens.

Perforated Membrane from Severe Acute Otitis Media

Ear Infection Symptoms Treatment

Ear Infection By Cholesteatoma Caused Hearing Loss Ep 05

Middle ear infection is a bacterial or viral infection that may cause earache, temporary hearing loss, and fluid discharge. A middle ear infection that does not clear up on its own may require treatment with antibiotics.

Middle ear infections occur mainly in early childhood, although older children and adults also get these kinds of infection. The incidence of acute ear infection in New Zealand children was recently estimated at 27%. A complication associated with middle ear infections is the retention of fluid, causing “glue ear”. Children should always be taken to a doctor if they have earache.

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Common Signs And Symptoms Of Amiddle Ear Infection Include:

  • Ear pain
  • Difficulty hearing
  • Drainage of fluid from the ear
  • Fever

Another type of ear infection occurs in the outer ear. This type of infection is called otitis externa, or swimmers ear since it often begins as a result of water that remains in the ear after swimming or bathing. The moisture in the ear becomes the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. A bacterial infection may occur in the outer ear if it is scratched or irritated.

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.

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How Does Ear Infection Lead To Hearing Loss

The ear is made up of three parts outer ear, middle ear and the inner ear. All three of these parts, at the same time or separately, can become infected. Infections/inflammations of the outer ear are often called the Swimmers Ear.

More often, what is called an ear infection is a middle ear infection often known as Otitis Media. The middle ear begins with the eardrum and includes your bodys three smallest bones , stapes , and malleus ). The middle ear stops at the oval window that indicates the beginning of the inner ear where the hearing nerves begin.

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The middle ear needs air in order to work properly. It obtains this air from the Eustachian tube extending from the middle ear to the back of the mouth. You re feeling the Eustachian tube in action when you yawn and your ears pop.

If due to swelling from an infection or allergy, the Eustachian tube becomes swollen shut, the middle ear may fill up with fluid. If the middle ear becomes filled with fluid it can trigger hearing problems. If the fluid gets infected you will feel a lot of pain inside your ear.

If you get an inner ear infection for some reason, this can be very serious, as it can permanently cause hearing loss and damage to your sense of balance. Most people dont realize that the organs of balance are connected to our inner ears.

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