Can an ear infection cause hearing loss?

Every year, ear infections rank among the top reasons that parents take their children to a pediatrician. Ear infections can be painful and frustrating for small children. Even more seriously, ear infections have been linked to hearing loss. Here is everything you should know about ear infections and hearing loss.
First, it’s important to note that while ear infections can lead to hearing loss, it is almost always temporary. There are many different types of ear infection, but the type most commonly associated with hearing loss is a middle ear infection or acute otitis media. These middle ear infections can result in pain and inflammation. During or following the initial infection, fluid may build up in the air-filled space behind the eardrum. This is known as otitis media with effusion.
Unfortunately, this buildup of fluid can reduce the mobility of the eardrum and middle ear bones. This can lead to trouble hearing. As noted, however, this usually clears up once the infection is treated.
Because very young children may suffer from ear infections but be unable to communicate their symptoms, it is important to be aware of the signs to watch for. Your young child may have an ear infection if they experience the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Irritability
  • Frequent pulling or scratching at their ears (indicating discomfort or pain)
  • Secretions from the ear
  • Delayed response to voices or other sounds (indicating trouble hearing)

Older children, adolescents, and adults can also experience ear infections. Common symptoms include:

  • A constant earache
  • Difficulty understanding speech or hearing other sounds
  • A frequent feeling of dizziness or imbalance
  • A feeling of pressure in the ears
  • Nausea or vomiting

In most cases, the healthcare professional will first treat the pain associated with the ear infection. Depending on the needs of your child, the doctor may not prescribe antibiotics right away because a healthy child can often fight off the infection without the use of antibiotics. If symptoms do not improve after a few days, your healthcare professional will then recommend an antibiotic.
If your child is experiencing the symptoms of an ear infection, it is important to contact a pediatrician, family doctor, or otolaryngologist as soon as possible. Ear infections need to be treated, and once the infection is properly treated, it can clear up, relieve pain, and restore normal hearing ability.
While the temporary hearing loss associated with middle ear infections can be unsettling (and frustrating for the one who experiences it), you can rest easy knowing that it is only a temporary side effect of the ear infection. In most cases, it will clear up with the infection and will not result in any permanent hearing loss.
However, it is recommended that any hearing loss be evaluated by a healthcare professional. If you have a young child who suffers from frequent ear infections, it is especially important to have the hearing loss evaluated by a hearing professional. This is because the child may experience mild hearing loss during a crucial learning period for speech and language development.
If your child is experiencing hearing loss related to an ear infection, or if you would like more information about the connection between hearing loss and ear infections, we encourage you to contact our hearing practice today. We are here to answer your questions and provide the care you need.


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