Ear infections are not very pleasant things, and in most cases, they are very painful. While antibiotics may help take away the infection, they don’t work instantly and this leaves you in pain until the antibiotics start to work at getting rid of the infection, which can take a few days. Along with pain, there are other reasons why ear infections are bad and one of those reasons is because they can lead to hearing loss. You can learn more about these infections and their correlation to hearing loss here.
Common causes of ear infections
A common type of ear infection commonly found in children is the one referred to as ‘swimmer’s ear’. This type of infection is one that affects the outer ear. This type of infection is often caused by water remaining in the ear and this is where its name originates from. While it can lead to temporary loss of hearing, permanent loss isn’t generally a concern.
Issues with the development of the Eustachian tubes can lead to infections in the middle ear. Middle ear ones are the ones most likely to cause permanent hearing loss. Eustachian tubes play an important role with regards to preventing these issues. The Eustachian tubes work by equalizing the pressure in the middle ear. They close to protect the middle ear from pressure fluctuations and they help fluid drain away from the middle ear.
Children tend to have Eustachian tubes that are more horizontal, and this causes fluid in the ear canal to not properly drain. When the fluid remains, it can cause problems. Children with chronic issues may have tubes surgically placed in their ears to help prevent fluid draining issues.
A cold, sinus, or respiratory infection that causes throat inflammation can also affect the person’s Eustachian tube. Since the Eustachian tubes primary job is to control the middle ear pressure, inflammation in this area affects the tube’s ability to function correctly which can lead to issues.
Chronic infections with tonsils or adenoids can also lead to ear problems. Since the glands are close to the Eustachian tube the infection can easily spread to the middle ear, causing an infection. Often, when someone has chronic issues with their adenoids or tonsils, they will be removed, which can also help decrease the number of problems the person experiences.
Symptoms of Ear Infections
With infants and very young children, you have to watch for physical cues to determine whether they may have an infection, since they won’t be able to tell you what they’re feeling. Symptoms of ear infections in children include:
- A fever
- Tugging at their ear
- Rubbing or scratching their ear
- Fluid leaking from the ear
- Not responding to sound as well as they normally would
In older children and adults, symptoms include:
- Pain in the ear
- Difficulty hearing
- Muffled hearing
- Trouble keeping balance
- Fluid coming from the ear
How ear infections can lead to permanent loss of hearing
The swelling and pus that comes with infections of the middle ear can block sound from traveling through the middle ear. In rare instances, the loss can be permanent. Letting these infections go untreated can increase the risk of permanent hearing loss.
A viral infection in the main sensory organ of the ear known as the cochlea can cause someone to experience sudden loss of their hearing. When this happens, may return completely, may return partially, or not return at all which means permanent problems with hearing.
Reoccurring infections can cause someone to have significant scarring and thickening of the tympanic membrane. This can affect the mobility of the eardrum which can lead to hearing issues. This is one reason why it’s so important to seek treatment as soon as one suspects an ear infection.
When to seek treatment
If you suspect an ear infection in yourself or your child, there should be a visit to the doctor so treatment can begin immediately. Also, if you think you or your child are experiencing hearing problems, then you want to have your/their hearing checked, contact us at Hearing Health in Portland. Untreated hearing loss should be avoided because untreated hearing loss can lead to worse problems.
Hearing Health in Portland
If you’ve noticed changes in your hearing due to ear infection and are struggling with communication, contact us today. We provide comprehensive hearing health services and we’re here to help!