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 these unpleasant infections and whether or not they may cause permanent hearing loss in either children or adults.
Causes of ear infections
According to the Mayo Clinic, bacterial and viral infections such as colds and the flu can spread to the middle ear.* This is what causes an ear infection. In some circumstances, allergies may also perpetuate the problem due to swelling and congestion.
The eustachian tubes, which run from the middle ear to the throat, serve to move air and secretions between the ear and the throat. In the event of an infection, these become swollen and are unable to regulate pressure and fluid throughout the system.* The American Academy of Otolaryngology states this creates a buildup of fluid in the middle ear, and if bacteria or viral cells invade the fluid this is what causes the characteristic pressure and pain of an ear infection.*
Can ear infections lead to permanent hearing loss?
Usually, no. According to KidsHealth, the hearing loss that commonly accompanies an ear infection usually subsides as soon as the affliction has cleared up.*
However, if you or your child suffer from chronic ear infections, you may want to discuss the possibility of permanent hearing loss with your doctor. After the infection has cleared, a hearing exam will let you know for sure whether or not your child sustained any permanent damage.
Furthermore, chronic ear infections warrant additional care. An ear, nose and throat doctor (otolaryngologist) may be able to recommend some courses of action if your child suffers from these infections on a routine basis.*
*Mayo Clinic Staff. 20 April 2013. The Mayo Clinic. [Online]. Available here. [21 October 2014].
*31 February 2013. American Academy of Otolaryngology. [Online]. Available here. [21 October 2014].
*Ben-Joseph, Elana Pearl. July 2013. Kidshealth.org. [Online]. Available here. [21 October 2014].