Ear Infections & Hearing Loss

Ear Infections & Hearing Loss
Dr. Steinberg
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Ear infection refers to the infection of the air-filled space that is behind the ear drum containing tiny bones of the ear. It is always an infection of the middle ear and sometimes is referred to as acute otitis media. Ear infections mostly affect the minors than the adults. Most of the times, the infections heal up on their own but its treatment mainly entails managing pain. Antibiotics can be used to heal the infections.

Signs and Symptoms of An Ear Infection

Some of the signs and symptoms of ear pain include the following:

  • Feeling pain in the ear especially when you are lying down
  • Pulling or tugging an ear
  • Difficulty in sleeping
  • Crying more than usual especially in babies
  • You can also experience some loss of balance
  • Some fluids draining from your ear
  • Fever of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit/38 degrees Celsius, especially in children
  • Trouble with hearing

The mentioned signs and symptoms can also indicate some other conditions. It is therefore necessary to seek an accurate diagnosis from a qualified and certified physician.

Causes of Ear Infections

An ear infection can be caused by a virus or a bacterium in the middle ear. Often, the infection results from other illnesses like flu, cold, or allergy. The bacteria and virus cause congestion of the Eustachian tubes in the middle ear and lead to damage of the ear for untreated hearing loss.

Hearing Loss

It refers to the partial or complete inability to hear. The condition can be caused by an ear infection and depending on the type of infection, the loss can be reversible or temporary hearing impairment. How do infections cause loss of hearing? Infections block the passage of sound through the middle ear or ear canal to the inner ear.

Types of Infections That Cause Loss of Hearing

Otitis externa, or infection of the ear canal

The condition is commonly referred to as the swimmer’s ear though the cause is not too much water in the ear. It is an s a result of the inflammation or building up or exudate in the ear canal that blocks sounds from going to the middle ear.

Otitis media, or infection of the middle ear

This may be caused by swelling or pus that has accumulated in the middle ear causing blockage of sound not to reach the inner ear. If the infection is left untreated, it can lead to permanent loss of hearing. It most gets healed on its own, but you can use antibiotics to treat the condition.

Fluid Build-Up in the Middle Ear

This condition can occur with or without an infection. A fluid that may build up behind the eardrum space blocks sounds from passing to the inner ear. If the fluid is not cleared and becomes infected, the eardrum may even burst.

Infection of Cochlea

This type of infection is caused by a virus and may lead to a sudden hearing loss. The viruses that cause upper respiratory problems are the same ones who cause the infection. Hearing can return partially or entirely and it may even not return.

Signs and Symptoms of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is an invisible condition, but there are tell-tale signs that it is present.

  • Trouble hearing some consonants
  • Having difficulty in understanding words especially in a crowd or against some background noise
  • Muffling of some sounds and speech
  • Asking other people to speak more slowly, loudly and clearly more frequent
  • Always needing to increase volume of radio or television
  • Withdrawing yourself from conversations
  • Avoiding social settings.

It is important to seek a hearing test if you experience the above-mentioned symptoms. Untreated hearing loss may lead to permanent loss of your hearing.

Risk Factors for Loss of Hearing

  • Your inner ear structures keep on degenerating over time.
  • Loud Noise. When you are exposed to loud noises most of your time, you are at risk of losing your hearing.
  • Your genetic makeup may also be a risk factor to your ear damage.
  • Some medications. The usage of some drugs such as Viagra, antibiotic gentamicin and chemotherapy medicines can cause ear damage. Temporary hearing loss might happen when you take high doses of pain killers and loop diuretics.
  • Recreational Noises. When you are exposed to explosive noises such as jet engines and firearms, you are at risk of getting temporary or permanent loss of hearing. Other recreational activities such as noises from snowballing, carpentry, motorcycling and listening to loud music might also affect your hearing.
  • Some illnesses. Diseases such as meningitis may affect your cochlea.