Is there pain in your ear, or do you hear a ringing sound? This may be due to an ear infection. An ear infection, often caused by viruses or bacteria, affects the middle ear, the air-filled space behind the eardrum. It may result in symptoms such as ear discomfort and a feeling of pressure inside the ear. However, does it cause hearing loss? Read more to find out.
The middle ear usually is kept healthy by the passage of air via the eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the back of the throat. However, when the eustachian tube is blocked or clogged due to head colds, allergies, sinus, viral infection, or excess mucus, air cannot pass through. This can result in pressure changes and fluid buildup in the middle ear, which in turn can encourage viruses or bacteria to multiply.
Though anyone can get ear infections, they are more common in children because their eustachian tubes are narrower and shorter, which more easily allows bacteria and viruses to travel into the ears. According to research, five out of six children will suffer from at least one ear infection.
As an ear infection progresses, fluid buildup, air pressure imbalances, and inflammation can all work to prevent the eardrum from functioning normally. This can cause temporary hearing loss, making you feel like you are hearing underwater. Once the infection is treated, the hearing difficulties usually will subside. However, untreated ear infections can cause significant physical damage, developing into long-term or permanent hearing loss.
Bacteria like Haemophilus influenza and Streptococcus pneumonia are major causes of middle ear infection. In the case of viruses, some can cause congenital hearing loss, while others can lead to acquired hearing loss. Also, some viruses cause both.
Sometimes, ear infections will resolve without medical intervention. However, you must visit your audiologist if your ear infection persists with the following symptoms:
Even if your ear infection clears up on its own, it is good to visit your audiologist for a hearing test. The reason is that, sometimes, the infection may recur with more serious complications, including speech or language delay in children, meningitis, ruptured eardrum, and mastoiditis.
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