Man holding his ear as he has an ear infection

Can an Ear Infection Cause Hearing Loss?

June 29, 2022

Have you ever wondered if an ear infection can cause hearing loss? There are a variety of factors that can cause hearing loss, including genetics, sound exposure, ear injuries, and aging. These all can cause sensorineural hearing loss, which is the most commonly experienced kind of hearing loss. However, these aren’t the only causes of hearing loss. Another factor that can negatively impact your hearing is ear infections, which is why taking care of your ear health is crucial to maintaining healthy hearing.

What is an Ear Infection?

Ear infections can be caused by bacteria or viruses; some of the most common afflictions such as a cold, the flu, or even allergies, can cause an ear infection. This can happen as swelling of the eustachian tubes can cause pressure changes and even blockages, leading to an accumulation of fluid in your ear.

Because of this, ear infections can cause hearing loss. Hearing loss in the case of an ear infection can sound like you’re underwater. Along with hearing loss, other symptoms of a middle ear infection might include drainage or pain in your ear. 

Hearing Loss from an Ear Infection

When hearing loss is negatively impacted by an ear infection, this is known as conductive hearing loss. This occurs when your outer or middle ear is damaged or obstructed. As ear infections can often cause fluid to collect in your ear, this obstructs your eardrum, which prevents sound from moving through your middle ear. 

This can be caused by a variety of obstructions (a foreign object, earwax, etc.), but fluid from ear infections is often the culprit if you suspect you are suffering from an ear infection. If you’ve been to the doctor and have heard the term “Otitis media”, this is simply the medical term for the middle ear infection you’re experiencing. 

Temporary Hearing Loss

While ear infections can cause hearing loss, this type of hearing loss is not generally permanent. Unless it’s a serious case or you’ve let it go untreated, hearing generally returns back to normal after taking antibiotics to successfully rid your ear of its infection. 

While hearing loss from an ear infection is temporary, don’t expect it to go away immediately after visiting the doctor; any fluid still trapped in your ear will inhibit your hearing as long as it’s still there, which can take 48 to 72 hours to start to disappear.  

Some patients experience recurring ear infections, and in these cases, your doctor may drain the fluid from your ear with a tube. If it’s a particularly painful ear infection, this will help eliminate any pain or pressure, and will also ensure that your eardrum does not rupture. In serious cases, your hearing might not return to normal, which can require the use of hearing aids to treat your hearing loss.

What to do if you have hearing loss

If you suspect you may have hearing loss from an ear infection, or lingering hearing loss from a previous ear infection, it’s recommended to see a doctor or hearing professional. Upon evaluating your hearing and any health problems that might be affecting your hearing, they can diagnose the cause of your hearing loss and help you with a treatment plan to get your hearing back to normal. If your hearing loss is caused by an ear infection, your doctor will likely prescribe you antibiotics, which will start to resolve your ear infection and subsequent hearing loss immediately. 

For more information on hearing loss, Lexie Hearing offers free hearing consultations with their hearing experts to answer any questions you might have and put your mind (and hearing) at ease. 

Image of post writer Marcellé Swanepoel.

Written by Marcellé Swanepoel

B. Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology

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