If your child has ever had an ear infection, you know how scary they can be. The pain is intense, and you may worry that it will cause permanent hearing damage.
While it’s possible for a severe ear infection to cause hearing damage, that is rare: most ear infection-related hearing loss will resolve with the infection itself.
There are a few different types of ear infections, each with a different cause. They can all cause temporary hearing loss, but middle ear infections are the type that are most often associate with it.
Outer ear infections, also known as Swimmer’s Ear, are usually caused by water getting trapped in the outer ear, making your head feel like it’s in a box, and causing a muting or distortion of sounds. Simply removing the fluid by tilting the head, laying down on that side, or using an over-the-counter swimmer’s ear product can typically resolve this type of ear infection quickly with no lasting effects.
Middle ear infections, also known as acute otitis media, are painful and result in inflammation in the ear canal. Sometimes during the course of a middle ear infection, fluid will build up behind the eardrum, which can result in a temporary hearing loss on that side as sound is blocked by the fluid and inflammation.
Most often this type of ear infection can be treated and full hearing will be restored once the infection has been resolved.
What Causes Middle Ear Infections?
The common cold or other upper respiratory infections can trigger a middle ear infection, which results in swelling and inflammation in the back of the throat and the Eustachian tube, the connector between the throat and the middle ear. When this tube is inflamed, it no longer equalizes the pressure in the middle ear, which results in pain and temporary hearing blockage.
Why Do Children Get Ear Infections More Often than Adults?
Anyone can get an ear infection, but children get them more commonly because their Eustachian tubes are more horizontal, and fluid drains less easily than for adults. Children also have less-developed immune systems, so they are more prone to contracting upper respiratory infections than adults.
Symptoms of Ear Infections
Babies and young children have more trouble expressing where they have pain and what type of pain they are experiencing, so here are a few ways to identify if your child has an ear infection:
- Pulling at the ears
- Delayed response to voices or other sound
- Drainage from the ear
Adults, older children and adolescents can recognize an ear infection from:
- A feeling of pressure inside of the ear
- A muted or blocked feeling, causing difficulty understanding speech
- Imbalance or feelings of dizziness
- General nausea or vomiting
Ear infections can commonly cause temporary hearing loss or distortion, but that almost always resolves with the infection itself. If your child suffers from chronic ear infections, however, it is more likely that permanent hearing damage can result, so be sure to visit your doctor or audiologist to evaluate your options for preventing this.
Ear Infection Treatment
Most often, an ear infection will resolve itself within a few days. Stay comfortable and treat the pain as needed with adequate rest and liquids.
If the ear infection worsens or persists for more than a few days, a trip to the doctor may be necessary for antibiotics to ensure the infection does not cause permanent damage.
It is important to check yours or your child’s hearing regularly to catch any hearing loss as early as possible, since permanent hearing loss is not reversible. To schedule an appointment for a quick, easy hearing evaluation, contact us today!
The first step to halting hearing loss and preventing further damage is to recognize your situation. Come in today for a hearing screening and formulate a strategy to train your brain to listen actively and effectively.
Diablo Hearing Services 2301 Camino Ramon, STE 106 San Ramon (925) 394-4646