Hearing Blog

Your source for all things related to Hearing & Deafness.

Can an Ear Infection Cause Hearing Loss?

Can an Ear Infection Cause Hearing Loss? - Hearing, Balance and Speech Center

Estimates show that 5 out of 6 children will have an ear infection by the time they are 3 years old. Ear infections are more common in children, however adults can also be at risk of an ear infection. 

As the colder weather sets in, colds and flus are more common. Similarly, winter can see a higher occurrence of ear infections. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, an “ear infection (sometimes called acute otitis media) is an infection of the middle ear, the air-filled space behind the eardrum that contains the tiny vibrating bones of the ear.” (Source)

What Causes an Ear Infection? 

A virus of bacteria in your middle ear can cause an ear infection. The infection is often the result of another illness, such as allergies, a cold, or the flu. These illnesses can cause your eustachian tubes to become swollen or blocked. 

Your eustachian tubes are small tubes that run to the back of your throat. They pass behind your nasal passage. Your eustachian tubes play an important role in: 

  • Regulating the air pressure in your middle ear 
  • Bringing fresh air into your ear
  • Drain normal fluids from your middle ear

When your eustachian tubes are blocked, such as might happen with a common cold, fluid builds up in your middle ear. This fluid can then become infected, resulting in an ear infection. 

What are the Symptoms of an Ear Infection? 

Symptoms of an ear infection generally come on quickly. The most common symptoms of an ear infection in adults include: 

  • Pain in the ear
  • Fluid draining from the ear
  • Difficulty hearing

Can an Ear Infection Cause Hearing Loss?

There are a few different types of ear infections. They can all impact your hearing in one way or another. Hearing loss that is caused by an ear infection can generally be resolved if you seek appropriate treatment. 

The three main types of ear infection that can cause hearing loss include: 

  • A middle ear infection or inflammation, known as Otitis Media.
  • An outer ear infection or inflammation, known as Otitis Externa. 
  • An inner ear infection, known as Otitis Interna.

Otitis Media

Your middle ear includes your eustachian tubes. An ear infection in your middle ear is the result of fluid buildup in your eustachian tubes. 

If left untreated, a middle ear infection can cause permanent hearing loss. We recommend that you work with your primary healthcare provider if you have a middle ear infection. With the appropriate treatment, the hearing loss is generally reversed.

Otitis Externa

Your outer ear is made up of your ear canal that connects to your eardrum. An ear infection in your outer ear may also be called ‘Swimmer’s ear.’ That’s because an ear infection in your outer ear is often caused by trapped water. 

In this case, conductive hearing loss caused by an ear infection in your outer ear is due to blockage. The infection in your outer ear prevents sound from travelling to your middle ear. Treating the infection will generally restore normal hearing. 

If left untreated, a middle ear infection can cause permanent hearing loss. We recommend that you work with your primary healthcare provider if you have a middle ear infection. With the appropriate treatment, the hearing loss is generally reversed.  

In some cases, however, an outer ear infection could be serous otitis externa. Serous otitis externa includes symptoms of hearing loss and severe pain. It is a serious infection, and requires urgent treatment. 

Otitis Interna

An infection of your inner ear is a serious ear infection, but less common. This type of ear infection affects your main sensory organ, your cochlea. Inner ear infectious are often caused by other conditions, including:

  • Labyrinthitis
  • Vestibular neuritis
  • Meningitis

Hearing loss caused by an inner ear infection can be sudden, and can cause permanent hearing loss. If you have dizziness or vertigo, or a high fever, see a physician right away.

If you are experiencing symptoms of an ear infection, please speak with your primary healthcare provider. Early treatment can minimize the impact of the ear infection. If you experience regular ear infections, we recommend that you keep on top of your hearing assessments. Treating a hearing loss as soon as possible is the best way to protect your hearing. 

At Hearing, Balance & Speech Center, We’re Here to Help You!

At Hearing, Balance & Speech Center, we are here to help you with your hearing needs. If you’d like to book in a hearing assessment, please request an appointment online.

Research / Sources

  1. https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/statistics/quick-statistics-hearing
  2. https://www.starkey.com/blog/articles/2017/05/Ear-infection-caused-hearing-loss
  3. https://www.hearatlanta.com/hearing-loss-articles/after-i-get-an-ear-infection-will-i-get-my-hearing-back/
  4. https://www.healthline.com/health/ear-infections#causes