Ear infections are a common ailment that affect people of all ages and hearing abilities. Your ear health is an important part of your overall health and well-being, so it’s important to understand how ear infections can affect your hearing health.
What Are Ear Infections?
An ear infection (medically 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. Although most ear infections are viral and will clear up on their own without any treatment, some people are susceptible to reoccurring ear infections which can lead to hearing loss and other complications.
Who Gets Ear Infections?
Children are more susceptible to ear infections and can even get them on a regularly basis. This is because their immune systems are underdeveloped and less equipped to fight off infections. Also, their eustachian tubes are smaller and more horizontal, which makes it more difficult for fluid to properly drain out of the ear.
For adults, occasional ear infections are not a problem. However, if you experience frequent adult ear infections that can be a sign of a more serious health problem and can even lead to hearing loss.
Causes and Treatment
Ear infections often follow other illnesses such as the cold, flu, or allergies that cause congestion and swelling of the throat, nasal passages, and eustachian tubes. The eustachian tubes are located in the throat behind the nasal passages connecting to the middle ear. So, when they swell, fluid and bacteria become trapped in the middle ear, creating an infection.
Chronic ear infections in adults can lead to more serious problems including hearing loss. Mild hearing loss that comes and goes is fairly common with ear infections, but it usually goes away after the infection is treated. Ear infections that happen continuously can lead to more significant or permanent hearing loss because of damage to the eardrum.
Most ear infections can be successfully treated with an antibiotic from your doctor. If you have chronic ear infections that are resulting in temporary hearing loss, or you have started to have difficulty with your hearing, then you should visit an audiologist. An audiologist will be able to help you discover the root cause of your chronic ear infections and can find a solution to improve your hearing.
How to Prevent Ear Infections
The best way to prevent ear infections is to decrease exposure to the risk factors that cause them. Always be sure to wash your hands often, avoid secondhand smoke, don’t put cotton swabs in your ears, wear swim plugs when swimming, and avoid getting sick. In addition, it is best to see your primary physician or a certified audiologist to help you manage any damage to your hearing that may be caused by ear infections.
Keep your ears healthy by recognizing the signs of ear infections and seeing an audiologist if you have a chronic issue. If you have chronic ear infections, contact your local audiologist today. They will be able to help you determine the cause of your ear infections and help you manage any hearing loss that has occurred as a result.