Ear Infections and Hearing Loss


Most people at one time or another have experienced an ear ache. Often times, people ignore them and think they will go away on their own. Since multiple untreated ear infections can cause permanent hearing loss, it’s important to address any signs of an ear ache, especially with our little ones! Our lead Audiologist, Nicole Stockstill, has written this week’s blog on how we get ear infections and what kind of effects they have on us.

Ear aches are often a sign of a greater problem – an excess pressure buildup behind the ear drum, or an ear infection. Ear infections are caused by many factors, but the most common causes are allergies and the common cold. The inside of our ears are designed to allow normal bodily fluids to drain into the back of the throat through the Eustachian tube. When this tube gets clogged or blocked, fluid collects behind the ear drums and if it stays in the ears long enough, it can become infected.

Young children are more prone to ear infections and rarely show symptoms. Some symptoms they may show are changes in sleep patterns, pulling at ears, or walking off balance. Fever sometimes accompanies and ear infection, but not always.

Most often, ear infections are treated with oral antibiotics. In extreme cases, ear infections can cause severe pain and burst the ear drum. If this happens and the hole does not heal, surgical intervention may be necessary. After repeated ear infections in a short amount of time, the physician may recommend Pressure Equalization Tubes to help keep the excess fluid from building up behind the ear drum.

Ear infections can also lead to problems effecting early speech and language development. When ear infections occur, they can cause temporary hearing loss, making things sound muffled or as if you are under water. Normal speech and language development depends heavily on a child being able to hear sounds and repeat them. For a child with chronic ear infections, their hearing is distorted and speech sounds cannot be interpreted properly, thus the child cannot reproduce the sounds properly.

New patients coming to Emerge for a speech evaluation also get a hearing test for this very reason. If a patient is exhibiting delays or difficulties with their speech, it’s important to make sure that problem isn’t actually stemming from a hearing issue, so we can treat the true source of the problem.