Can Chronic Ear Infections Cause Long-Term Hearing Loss?

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Parents

My daughter has had one ear infection after another. When she gets an infection, she seems to have trouble hearing, but with medicine it always gets better. Still, I’m worried that these infections could lead to permanent hearing loss somewhere down the line. Could this happen?
Yasmine

Ear infections are common in childhood. As with your daughter, some kids do have temporary hearing loss due to the accumulation of fluid in the middle ear, but it usually goes away with treatment.

It's very rare, however, for kids to develop permanent hearing loss, even when they've had several ear infections. A child with frequent or chronic ear infections is at risk for permanent hearing loss only when damage has been done to the eardrum, the bones of the ear, or the hearing nerve. Since your daughter's hearing appears to return to normal after treatment for an ear infection, she's probably not at risk for permanent hearing loss. But if you're concerned, talk to your doctor about scheduling a hearing exam.

If your daughter's ear infections continue to be a problem, the doctor might refer her to an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor), who may suggest ear tube placement to help reduce the incidence of ear infections and limit the potential problems they can cause to her hearing.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: August 2010



Related Resources

OrganizationAmerican Speech-Language-Hearing Association This group provides services for professionals in audiology, speech-language pathology, and speech and hearing science, and advocates for people with communication disabilities.
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.
Web SiteAmerican Academy of Audiology The American Academy of Audiology, the world's largest professional organization of, by and for more than 10,000 audiologists, is dedicated to providing quality hearing care to the public.


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Middle Ear Infections Ear infections are common among kids and, often, painful. Find out what causes them and how they're treated.
Middle Ear Infections and Ear Tube Surgery Many kids get middle ear infections (otitis media). Doctors may suggest ear tube surgery for those with multiple infections or a hearing loss or speech delay.
How Will I Know if My Child Has Trouble Hearing? Find out what the experts have to say.
Hearing Evaluation in Children Hearing problems can be treated if they're caught early, so it's important to get your child's hearing screened early and evaluated regularly.
Can I Prevent Ear Infections When My Child Swims? Find out what the experts have to say.




Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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