How Long Does Hearing Loss Last After an Ear Infection?

Reviewed by Dr. Porter on September 30, 2020

Ear infections are common in children, but even adults deal with ear infections. Hearing loss from an infection can occur when fluid builds up in the middle ear. This prevents sounds from getting through to the eardrum, which causes auditory loss. This is called conductive auditory impairment, which means that there is an obstruction. When you have hearing loss from an ear infection, it usually isn’t permanent. However, there are a lot of factors that can influence how long the impairment lasts.

How Long Does Hearing Loss Last in Adults?

There are two main types of auditory loss, conductive impairment and sensorineural auditory loss. Conductive loss is often temporary. When the blockage is treated, the impairment usually goes away. Ear infections are typically easily treated with antibiotics. Recurrent ear infections may need further treatment. A doctor can insert a tube in the eardrum to keep the fluid from building up, known as a Eustachian tube. If your hearing doesn’t get back to normal after treatment, you should discuss this with your doctor and an auditory professional.

Ear infections can also cause pressure to build up in the ear, which can cause the eardrum to rupture. Left untreated, this can cause damage to the eardrum which can reduce acuity. The tympanic membrane, which is another part of the ear that vibrates in response to sound, can also be scarred from chronic, recurrent ear infections. This, too, can affect hearing.

The second type of loss, sensorineural, occurs when there is damage to the auditory nerve or inner ear. The most common cause of this type of impairment is age-related, known as presbycusis. Sensorineural loss that is age-related is generally permanent, but the impairment can be mitigated with devices. When sensorineural loss occurs suddenly, within three days or less, a medical provider should be contacted immediately.

How Long Does Hearing Loss Last in Children?

Hearing impairment in children can affect their development, so it’s important to treat auditory impairment quickly. As in adults, ear infections can cause a child to have an auditory impairment. About 25% of children will have at least one middle infection by the time they are 3 years old. The Eustachian tube is vulnerable to fluid-blockage because it is more horizontal when a child is very young. Fluids in the ears don’t drain as easily, causing auditory impairment, which is usually temporary. When the infection is treated, the situation usually resolves itself. Frequent infections that go untreated can cause damage to the eardrum and auditory nerve, which could result in sensorineural loss, which is typically permanent.

Will My Hearing Go Back to Normal?

Typically when the infections are treated promptly hearing will be restored to normal or close to normal. If, however, there is permanent auditory impairment the treatment is auditory aids. Thankfully, this technology has come a long way over the past few decades, and while it won’t fully restore your hearing, these aids give you back a great deal of your hearing and make it easier to handle normal everyday living. Unlike glasses, which let you see immediately, auditory aids can take time to get used to while your brain remembers how to process sounds that is has been missing, so be patient! Let yourself adjust to auditory aids, because it will help you to understand people more effectively than if you didn’t use the hearing aids. Work with your audiologist to make each situation work for you.

Can Ear Infections Cause Permanent Deafness?

Ear infections are a common childhood malady. Fortunately, infections usually don’t cause permanent damage in children or adults. If hearing returns to normal after treatment, the risk is lower for permanent deafness. You should discuss any concerns with your doctor. If there is temporary loss, you may be able to use a device to treat the condition until hearing returns.

To prevent recurrent ear infections, wear swim ear plugs when in the water. Don’t smoke and limit your and the child’s exposure to secondhand smoke. Try to prevent colds and flu, by following good hygiene. Get your flu vaccine. Ask your doctor about using antihistamines to prevent allergies from causing fluid in the ear.

Do You Have Hearing Loss?

Talk to a provider with Harbor Audiology and Hearing Services today to find hearing aids that fit your condition. We will be happy to help you find solution the solution that works for you!

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