How Fluid in Your Middle Ear Can Cause Hearing Loss

Middle ear infections can affect people of any age, though they’re more common in children due to features of their developing anatomy. Fluid buildup can be both a symptom and cause of this type of infection, displacing air that normally fills this part of the ear behind the eardrum. 

Otitis media — or middle ear infection — can cause hearing loss. Usually it’s temporary, but in rare cases it can become a chronic or permanent issue. 

Any case of ear infections or hearing loss is the right time to visit the nearest location of Lakeshore Ear, Nose and Throat Center. Their team of otolaryngologists are both hearing loss and pediatric ENT specialists

The anatomy of the ear

Your ears are vulnerable to several types of infection, with the middle ear most commonly affected. 

Normally filled with air, the middle ear chamber is usually pressure-balanced with the environment around you. When your ears pop with changes of altitude, it’s caused by air pressure in the air equalizing with outer conditions. 

The eustachian tubes run from the middle ear to the rear of the throat, allowing for this rebalance of air pressure. If these tubes are blocked, the difference in outer and inner air pressure can cause discomfort and pain along with hearing loss. 

Children are more susceptible to middle ear infections because their growing eustachian tubes have a smaller diameter and are closer to level than when children are older, making drainage less efficient without the assistance of gravity. 

When infections occur

A middle ear infection starts from a variety of viral or bacterial sources. Commonly, these develop from other conditions, such as respiratory infections (cold or flu) or allergies with respiratory symptoms. 

Mucus clogs the middle ear, and associated swelling of the eustachian tubes prevents normal drainage. These often create perfect conditions for the infection to sustain itself within the middle ear, leading to severe and/or chronic symptoms. 

Fluids and hearing loss

Your hearing starts with the acoustic transmission of sound waves onto and through the eardrum, which then transmits sound waves through several tiny bones to stimulate the liquid inside the cochlea. 

For this process to work efficiently, air pressure on both sides of the eardrum must be equal. The eardrum flexes freely with sound waves, and the tiny bones of the ear translate this motion accurately. 

When the middle ear becomes clogged with fluid, pressure builds and these mechanisms of sound transmission are no longer free to move. Sounds become muffled and indistinct. This can be accompanied by feelings of pressure or pain, and fluid drainage from the ear can occur. 

Middle ear infections can sometimes resolve without the use of antibiotics, so treatment may focus on pain relief, but since there’s a chance the infection can persist, it’s important to make treatment decisions with a medical professional. 

The experts at Lakeshore Ear, Nose and Throat Center are your ideal partners for minimizing the effects of middle ear fluid retention. Contact the nearest office in the metropolitan Detroit area, by phone or online, to schedule an examination. Your hearing is too important, so take steps to protect it today.