Ear Infections & Hearing Loss

Dr. Maria Wynens, Au.D.Ear Health

Ear Infections & Hearing Loss
Dr. Maria Wynens, Au.D.
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Most people seem to think that hearing loss is the result of the aging process. There is a good bit of truth to that assumption. Impaired hearing, however, is a condition that can happen at any age. Some factors leading to loss of hearing are related to an inner ear injury, noise exposure, or even heredity.

Types of Hearing Loss

The form of hearing damage caused by aging, injury, or intense noise exposure are called sensorineural loss. This means that inner ear nerve damage prevents the proper transmission of sound signals to the brain. This type of hearing loss is caused by shrinking of tiny hair cells found in the inner ear.

Conductive hearing impairment on the other hand, is caused by otitis media. That is a technical term for an infection related to the middle or outer ear. In the case of conductive hearing damage, there is generally some type of blockage present. This blockage inhibits sound from passing through the middle ear canal. This may cause sound distortion or an inability to clearly understand the spoken word.

Link Between Ear Infections & Hearing Loss

Do you know where you can find the 3 smallest bones in the body? The ossicular chain is found in the middle ear. It is comprised of a trio of miniature bones and each is no larger than a grain of rice. The eardrum works in conjunction with these 3 mini bones to transfer sounds to the auditory nerve. When an infection takes over the middle ear, a build-up of fluid forms a blockade preventing sounds from reaching the auditory nerve.

Fortunately, this form of impaired hearing tends to be a temporary condition. In the meantime, however, that fluid build-up causes pain and pressure. Pain is almost always a sign that something is not functioning as it should be. It is our body’s way of signaling that things are not operating smoothly. In some cases, ear infections of this nature may trigger an eardrum rupture, especially if the condition is left untreated.

Luckily, treatment for this type of infection is fairly straightforward. For a typical ear infection, a physician will prescribe antibiotics. Often the pain and pressure will dissipate in a matter of days. If a patient presents with recurrent infections, the treatment provider may treat the problem with the insertion of a tube to induce fluid drainage.

People prone to recurrent ear infections can develop a condition known as tympanosclerosis. This occurs due to scarring of the tympanic membrane. The scarring leads to thickening of the membrane, and this in turn begins to reduce hearing acuity. If hearing does not improve significantly following standard treatment, there could be considerable hearing loss.

Seeking Treatment for Hearing Loss

Untreated hearing loss is no joke. Some patients tend to be in denial about the degree of damage they have suffered. Others just simply fail to notice that their hearing is not as sharp as it once was. If friends or loved ones begin to question your ability to understand them or if they complain how high you keep the volume on your TV, you may have an untreated hearing loss. It is important to listen to this kind of feedback from those who care about us.

Our team at Atlanta Hearing Doctor will perform a series of tests to clarify the diagnosis. Testing results will provide us with the data needed to make an accurate diagnosis and to develop an effective plan of treatment. One must never assume that an ear infection or hearing impairment will just go away on its own.

Ear infections are quite common ailments and most can be taken care of with a simple course of antibiotics. It is essential, however, to seek professional medical help if standard forms of treatment fail to relieve the problem.

As humans, we rely on our sense of hearing to keep us safe, communicate accurately with others, and to enjoy many aspects of life such as listening to a beautiful piece of music, or enjoying the sounds of nature. While hearing damage from an ear infection is not that common, one should still be vigilant when it comes to hearing issues. What seems like a minor inconvenience could blossom into a life changing situation if precautionary steps are not followed.

Atlanta Hearing Doctor

If you’ve noticed changes in your hearing and are struggling with communication, contact us today. We provide comprehensive hearing health services and we’re here to help!