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Can ear infections cause hearing loss?

David M. Vernick, MD
Ear, Nose & Throat (Otolaryngology)
A middle ear infection, or otitis media, is the most common cause of hearing loss in children, although adults sometimes get it, too. Otitis externa (swimmer's ear), a bacterial or fungal infection of the skin lining the canal of the outer ear, is more common in adults than children. The infection can lead to hearing loss by causing a discharge or swelling in the ear canal. Other infections can cause hearing loss. One is labyrinthitis, which affects both the cochlea, a snail-shaped structure in the inner ear, and the balance organs of the inner ear, leading to hearing loss and dizziness. Another is meningitis, a brain infection that can damage the auditory nerves.

People are often concerned about the hearing loss they experience during an ear infection. Most people (children and adults) will have a temporary and minor hearing loss during and immediately following an ear infection. With proper treatment, there is seldom any permanent hearing loss.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.