THE CONNECTION BETWEEN HEARING LOSS AND EAR INFECTIONS

September 4, 2019

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Dr. Darcy Benson

Dr. Benson completed her audiology fellowship at the California Ear Institute, Palo Alto, CA, and received her Doctor of Audiology degree at Salus University, Osborne School of Audiology, Elkins Park, PA. Prior to that, she received her Master of Science degree in Communication Disorders from Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, and her Bachelor of Science degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, CA.
Dr. Darcy Benson

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If your child has had ear infections, you understand how frightening they are. Intense pain along with concern for permanent hearing loss.

Hearing damage can be the result of an ear infection, but it is uncommon: ear infection-related hearing loss will almost always go away when the infection does.

Ear infections are not all the same, and can have different causes. While all ear infections can cause temporary hearing loss, the type of infection most associated with hearing loss is a middle ear infection.

Swimmer’s Ear is a type of outer ear infection that is most often caused by water getting trapped in the ear canal. This can give you the feeling that your head is in a box and cause sounds to be distorted or muted. Removing the fluid will usually resolve this type of ear infection quickly. Tilt your head or lay down on the affected side will often allow the water to run out on its own. Over-the-counter swimmer’s ear drops are also available at drug stores, and will also help to remove the moisture quickly and easily.  

Acute otitis media is a middle ear infection. These infections are painful and include ear canal inflammation. Fluid can sometimes build up behind the eardrum and result in temporary hearing loss on the affected side. This is a physical hearing loss, because the pent-up fluid is simply blocking the sound from entering the eardrum.  

Middle ear infections are commonly treated full hearing is reestablished after the infection is healed.

The Causes of Middle Ear Infections

Upper respiratory infections such as the common cold can prompt a middle ear infection. There is then inflammation and swelling in the Eustachian tube (which connects the middle ear with the throat). When there is inflammation in the Eustachian tube, it can’t balance pressure in the middle ear, and pain along with temporary hearing loss result.

Why Don’t Adults Get Ear Infections and Children Do?

Middle ear infections are more common in children than adults because children’s Eustachian tubes are less developed, making it more difficult for excess fluid to drain during an infection. A less-developed immune system in children can also contribute to the increased frequency of all kinds of infection.  

Ear Infection Symptoms

Small children and infants cannot express clearly the type of pain they are experiencing, or the exact location of pain. Here are some ways to recognize if your child has an ear infection:

  • Not responding to sounds or voices
  • Pulling at their ears
  • Fluids draining from the ear
  • An elevated temperature
  • Crankiness

Even in adults and older children an ear infection may be difficult to recognize. Here are some symptoms:

  • Ear pressure
  • A muted or blocked feeling, causing difficulty understanding speech
  • Feeling dizzy or off-balance
  • Pain in or around the ear
  • Vomiting or nausea

If your child gets recurring ear infections, it is possible for permanent hearing loss to occur. Visit your audiologist to weight the options.  

Ear Infection Treatment

Ear infections usually resolve themselves within a few days. Keep your child or yourself comfortable and treat with liquids and rest.

Check your child’s hearing often to catch any hearing loss as early you can, because permanent hearing loss is irreversible. To schedule an appointment for a quick, easy hearing evaluation, contact us today!

Here at California Hearing Center we are committed to your hearing health. Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing screening. We can discuss hearing aid options with you and work with you to find one that fits your budget.