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An ear infection, also known as acute otitis, is a disease that occurs in the middle ear, which is located behind the eardrum that contains tiny vibrating bones of the ear. In most cases, infections of the ear heal on their own, although when treatment is necessary, it may start by managing the pain and monitoring the disease. Sometimes, your doctor may prescribe antibiotic drugs to treat the infection. People who are prone to having multiple infections of the ear are at higher risk of experiencing hearing problems and other complications.
In most cases, hearing infections result in temporary or reversible untreated hearing loss. Temporary loss of hearing may occur when the infections block the ear canal preventing the sound from traveling through to the inner ear. As a result of blockage sound, a condition known as conductive hearing loss may arise. The patient can hear sounds as muffled or indistinct.
How Hearing Infections Contributes to Hearing Loss
Type of Infections that are more likely to cause a temporary or reversible loss of hearing:
- Otitis externa, also known as swimmer’s ear- this condition is characterized by swelling of the ear canal. It is mainly caused by too much water in the ear. Swelling and inflammation of the ear canal block the movement of sound to the middle ear. The hearing resumes on its own when the infections go away.
- Otitis media – these conditions occur at the middle canal. Swelling and pus may block the sound from traveling to the inner ear, which, if left untreated, can result in permanent loss of hearing. The hearing usually returns on its own after the infection is eradicated. In most cases, diseases of the ear get better on their own, but antibiotics may be used in some cases.
- Otitis media with effusion – it occurs as a result of the accumulation of fluid behind the eardrum. It may happen in the presence or absence of infections. Fluid buildup may distort or hinder the movement of sound to the inner ear. The fluid behind the inner ear usually clears on its own, although in some cases, the eardrum may burst if the middle fluid becomes infected.
- Infection of the cochlea – these infections are believed to be caused by viruses. The cochlea is the typical sensory organ of hearing. When cochlea is infected, there is a likelihood of a sudden loss of hearing occurs. These traits of viruses that causes loss of hearing are thought to be the same as those that cause upper respiratory infections such as cold and influenza. Virus infection of the cochlea may cause moderate to permanent untreated hearing loss.
Children are more prone to hearing infections, but there is a possibility of them occurring to any person of different age. These causes of loss of hearing can almost always be diagnosed during a routine health checkup visit by your doctor.
Symptoms and Causes of Ear infections
Signs and symptoms of ear infections can be detected early, mostly on the second or third day after infection.
Common signs and symptoms of infections of the ear on children
- Ear pain, which becomes severe when they lay down
- Frequent headaches
- Loss of balance
- Lack of sleep
- Poor appetite
- Crying more than usual
- Tugging or pulling at an ear
- Common signs and symptoms of an ear infection in adults
- Hearing problem
- Drainage of fluid from the ear
- Ear pain
Common factors that increase the risk of ear infections
- Age – ear infection is more prevalent among children between the age of 6 months to 2 years. They are at greater risk because their immunity is not yet fully developed as well as the size and shape of their Eustachian tubes.
- Exposure to contaminated air – tobacco smoke or high level of air pollutions can increase the risk of air infection.
- Seasonal factors – there are seasons when the prevalence of ear infection is high such as during winter. People who experience seasonal allergies are more likely to have diseases of the air when the pollen count is high.
- Cleft palate – it becomes difficult for the Eustachian tube to efficiently drain in children with different bone and muscle structures, which is contributed by cleft palate.
When to Seek Treatment for Hearing Infection and Hearing Loss
Signs and symptoms of an ear infection may indicate several underlying conditions. Therefore, it is essential to get an accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment. Seek medical assistance if:
- You experience symptoms for more than a day
- You observe discharge, fluid or pus from the ear
- You experience severe ear pain
- Your infant is sleepless or irritable after cold or any other upper respiratory infection
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