Ear infections are a common condition, especially in small children. While the occasional infection is usually nothing to worry about, if the infection keeps coming back, it has the potential to lead to more serious health consequences, including hearing loss.
The Link Between Chronic Ear Infections and Hearing Loss
Symptoms of an ear infection can include ear pain, pressure, fever and temporary hearing loss from fluid buildup. As the infection clears, hearing will return to normal. However, studies have shown that chronic ear infections may increase your risk of developing permanent hearing problems.
Researchers examining the connection between chronic ear infections and hearing loss administered hearing tests to 123 patients with unilateral chronic otitis media. They found a highly significant association between chronic ear infections and sensorineural hearing loss.
Other Problems Associated With Chronic Ear Infections
In addition to permanent hearing loss, other risk factors include a ruptured eardrum as well as the development of a cholesteatoma. This is an abnormal skin growth in the middle ear just behind the eardrum. As the mass increases, it can damage the bones of the middle ear and lead to hearing loss and infection.
Treating Chronic Ear Infections
When it comes to treating chronic ear infections, much of it depends on the cause.
- Eustachian tube issues. Children are more prone to ear infections in part because their Eustachian tubes may not be fully mature or functional yet. This can lead to frequent fluid buildup and regular infections. In such cases, ear tubes may need to be surgically placed in your child’s ears to drain fluid and prevent infection. This is a common, safe procedure, and the tubes fall out on their own within a few years as the Eustachian tube develops.
- Chronic allergies or sinusitis: Allergies and chronic sinus infections are other conditions that can lead to frequent ear infections. In both cases, treating the underlying condition should reduce the number of infections. When it comes to allergies, that may mean taking medications and avoiding certain triggers, such as staying away from outdoor areas like Crossways Preserve on high pollen days. While antibiotics can be used in some cases of sinusitis, there is a concern of overuse leads to antibiotic resistance in frequent infections. In this case, prevention methods such as regular nasal irrigation may be recommended instead.
If you or your child suffers from chronic ear infections, call the experts at Pinnacle ENT to make an appointment today.