Many people (especially children) experience ear infections, which can be painful and uncomfortable. Have you wondered about the relationship between ear infections and hearing loss? If so, read on to discover what causes ear infections and whether or not they may cause permanent hearing loss.
Causes of ear infections
According to the Mayo Clinic, bacterial and viral infections such as colds and the flu can spread to the middle ear1, which can lead to an ear infection. In some circumstances, allergies can make infection symptoms worse due to swelling and congestion.
The canal that connects the middle ear to the upper throat and back of the nasal cavity – called the eustachian tube – controls the pressure inside the middle ear, making it equal with the air pressure outside the body.2 These tubes also move air and fluids between the ear and the throat. Ear infections can cause these tubes to become swollen, impacting their ability to regulate pressure and fluid movement. The American Academy of Family Physicians says this creates a build-up of fluid in the middle ear, and if bacteria or viral cells invade the fluid, this is what causes the pressure and pain of an ear infection.3
Can ear infections lead to permanent hearing loss?
According to Dr Rupal Christine Gupta from KidsHealth, it’s very rare for children to experience permanent hearing loss due to an isolated or infrequent ear infection.4 The hearing loss that is common with ear infections usually goes away when the infection clears up.4
However, if you or your child suffers from chronic ear infections, you may want to discuss treatment options with your doctor. Chronic ear infections can heighten the risk of permanent hearing loss if the infection damages the eardrum, the bones of the ear or the hearing nerve.4 A hearing exam will let you know whether your hearing may have been affected by chronic ear infections.
For your hearing health and overall comfort, chronic ear infections should be treated professionally. Your GP or Audiologist may refer to an ear, nose and throat doctor (Otolaryngologist), who may be able to recommend treatments for those who suffer chronic ear infections.
Regular hearing health checks – especially for those who frequently experience ear infections – can help you keep on top of your hearing health. If you need assistance with your hearing health, please contact the Audika Hearing Care Help Line on 0800 001 726 or Live Chat with an Audika Agent, Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.
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1The Mayo Clinic. 20 April 2013. [Online]. Available here. [20 June 2020].
2Healthline. 26 January 2015. Available here. [10 June 2020].
3American Academy of Family Physicians. 7 June 2017. [Online]. Available here. [10 June 2020].
4Rupal Christine Gupta, MD. June 2016. Can Chronic Ear Infections Cause Long-Term Hearing Loss? Kidshealth.org. [Online]. Available here. [20 June 2020].