Can Ear Infection Cause Hearing Loss?

old man having hearing loss

Hearing loss can be caused by a variety of factors including infections (viral and bacterial), ageing, injury, exposure to noise, infection and heredity. These factors affect the auditory nerve, causing the most common types of hearing impairment, a sensorineural, conductive or mixed hearing loss. But did you know that an ear infection can cause hearing loss?

Hearing loss (hearing deficit) due to an ear infection is called conductive hearing loss. A middle ear infection can cause fluid to build up, obstructing the eardrum movement and the tiny bones (incus, stapes and malleus) that are attached to it. This ultimately results in hearing problems. The inner ear can also get infected and trigger a hearing deficit.

How Does Ear Infection Lead To Hearing Loss?

The ear is made up of three parts; outer ear, middle ear and the inner ear. All three of these parts, at the same time or separately, can become infected. Infections/inflammations of the outer ear are often called the Swimmer’s Ear.

Can Ear Infection Cause Hearing Loss? 1
diagram of the ear

More often, what is called an ear infection is a middle ear infection often known as Otitis Media. The middle ear begins with the eardrum (tympanic membrane) and includes your body’s three smallest bones (the incus (anvil), stapes (stirrup), and malleus (hammer)). The middle ear stops at the oval window that indicates the beginning of the inner ear where the hearing nerves begin.

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The middle ear needs air in order to work properly. It obtains this air from the Eustachian tube extending from the middle ear to the back of the mouth. You ‘re feeling the Eustachian tube in action when you yawn and your ears “pop”.

If due to swelling from an infection or allergy, the Eustachian tube becomes swollen shut, the middle ear may fill up with fluid. If the middle ear becomes filled with fluid it can trigger hearing problems. If the fluid gets infected you will feel a lot of pain inside your ear.

ear infections cause pain, discomfort and hearing loss
ear infections cause pain, discomfort and hearing problem

If you get an inner ear infection for some reason, this can be very serious, as it can permanently cause hearing loss and damage to your sense of balance. Most people don’t realize that the organs of balance (the semicircular canals) are connected to our inner ears.

However, you may still have fluid in your middle ear long after the infections have healed, so you might still be experiencing progressive hearing issues.

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Finally, people who have repeated (chronic) ear infections may develop scarring and other permanent damage resulting in a permanent hearing deficit. If so, you’ll need to visit the doctor as soon as possible.

What Types of Infection Causes Hearing Loss?

Infections that are capable of causing hearing impairment can be viral or bacterial.

Viruses that causes hearing loss are:

  • German measles or Rubella
  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
  • Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus (LCMV).
  • Varicella-zoster virus
  • Herpes simplex type 1
  • Herpes simplex type 2
  • Rubeola
  • HIV
  • West Nile virus
  • Mumps

Among the many causes of hearing deficit, viruses often are ignored. Viral infections, in particular cytomegalovirus (CMV), cause up to 40% of all congenitally acquired hearing impairment.

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Bacteria that causes hearing loss are:

  • Streptococcus pneumoniae
  • Mycobacterium Tuberculosis
  • Neisseria meningitidis
  • Haemophilus influenzae

Bacterial meningitis is one of the causes of progressive sensorineural hearing loss. Among bacteria, the Mycobacterium Tuberculosis has, in recent times, acquired remarkable importance which is also due to its considerable diffusion, despite modern therapy, and to its association with HIV infection.

Is Hearing Loss a Disability?

Hearing loss is a disability when it interferes with your life to the point where it affects your ability to enjoy listening to recordings, radio, CD’s or tapes, having a conversation, watching television, driving, work-life, and so on.

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Finding it hard to understand conversations, watching television at unreasonably high volume levels, and speaking with a loud voice all the time because you can not hear yourself are clear signs that hearing loss is a disability.

Save your hearing while you can before you completely lose it.

What is Conductive Hearing Loss?

Conductive hearing loss is a type of hearing impairment (others are sensorineural and mixed hearing loss) that occurs when either the ear canal or the middle ear blocks the passage of sound into the inner ear. Conductive hearing loss occurs when there is a problem transmitting sound waves through the outer ear, tympanic membrane (eardrum), or middle ear.

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If a conductive hearing loss occurs in conjunction with a sensorineural hearing loss, it is then referred to as mixed hearing loss.

Conductive hearing impairment typically involves sound frequency reduction or the failure to detect little or faint sounds. This form of hearing loss can be medically or surgically restored.

Causes of Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing deficit can be caused by lots of factors. They Include:

  • Ear canal infection (otitis externa)
  • Middle ear infection (otitis media)
  • Fluid in your middle ear caused by colds or allergies.
  • A hole in your eardrum
  • Inadequate functioning of the Eustachian tube.
  • Earwax or cerumen stuck in your ear canal.
  • An object stuck in your outer ear
  • Benign tumours

Can Conductive Hearing Loss Be Treated?

There are several causes of conductive hearing deficit. Therefore, treatment options for this hearing problem depend on the cause and severity of the damage.

Hearing aids can be used to correct some types of conductive hearing impairment. If the Corti organ is functioning normally in the cochlea, a hearing aid may help transmit sound in the outer or middle ear.

woman using hearing aid
woman using hearing aid

Many forms of conductive hearing impairment can be handled either medically (oral drugs and ear drops) or through surgery.

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Medical treatments, though, may not restore conductive hearing loss to the completely normal state. Hence, people with conductive hearing problem are often able to benefit from hearing aid.

What is Hearing Deficit or Hearing deficiency?

Hearing deficit or hearing deficiency is the same name for hearing loss (hearing impairment) which is defined as the partial or complete inability to hear even while listening. Loss of hearing may happen in one or both ears.

Final Words

If you get an ear infection for some reason, treat it seriously as infections can lead to hearing deficit. If a hearing loss happens in one or both of the ears, you ought to treat this matter seriously. When left untreated, the disease will grow worse easily and inflict serious adverse effects, including lifelong hearing damage.

It’s suggested that you get support from a hearing treatment specialist as early as possible.

The medical information provided in this article is provided as an information resource only. This information does not create any patient-physician relationship and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.
About Ochemba Callistus Chinedu 157 Articles
"Ochemba Callistus Chinedu is a certified Medical Laboratory Scientist (B.MLS). Currently, He is a Certified SEO Manager, Content writer/developer and founder of Nedufy: www.nedufy.com. He enjoys reading, writing, travelling, general health, and learning new things."

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