What Happens if You Ignore an Ear Infection?

What Happens if You Ignore an Ear Infection?

While there’s a chance that an untreated ear infection will clear up on its own, there’s also a chance that things can quickly go south, and your hearing could be put at risk if you ignore it. Getting an ear infection checked out sooner rather than later is always your best option.

SLENT, or South Louisiana Ear, Nose, Throat & Facial Plastics, has locations in Mandeville, Hammond, and Slidell, Louisiana. Our experienced team of otolaryngology specialists includes board-certified physicians, nurse practitioners, and audiologists. We can help you determine the cause of your or your child’s ear infection, lay out a course of treatment, and determine what, if any, risk to hearing is involved.   

Types of ear infections

Most ear infections start in the middle ear. These ear infections are referred to as otitis media. There are two main types of otitis media.

1. Acute otitis media

The eustachian tube connects the middle of the ear to the back of the throat, acting as a drain. If this important tube becomes inflamed, fluid can become trapped and unable to drain normally, leading to the common infection known as acute otitis media. This can cause intense ear pain, swelling, and even some level of temporary hearing impairment due to eustachian tube blockage.  

2. Effusive otitis media

If there’s fluid trapped in the middle ear, but no signs of acute infection, pressure can still build up and cause severe pain. This is known as effusive otitis media. Fluid build-up in the middle ear and eustachian tube places pressure on the tympanic membrane and prevents it from vibrating properly. This decreases sound conduction, and can also cause temporary decreased hearing.

Ear infection complications

While acute and effusive forms of otitis media may not seem so serious, prolonged untreated or repeated ear infections can lead to complications that are more dangerous.  

Chronic suppurative otitis media

Untreated acute otitis media can cause the eardrum to perforate, causing an ongoing chronic infection of the middle ear because of the perforated tympanic membrane. Chronic suppurative otitis media can result in chronic inflammation of the middle ear and mastoid cavity, and mild-to-moderate hearing loss unless treated promptly. 

Adhesive otitis media

Adhesive otitis media is a complication of untreated middle ear effusion. This is commonly  caused by long-term eustachian tube dysfunction, with inadequate middle ear ventilation leading to negative pressure that can cause the eardrum to completely collapse. Its internal walls can adhere to one another, causing hearing loss that may be profound. 

When it comes to your or your child’s ears and hearing, safe is better than sorry. It’s important to have all ear infections checked out, preferably by an ear, nose, and throat specialist. You can schedule a consultation with the experts at SLENT by calling the location closest to you, or visit our contact page for more information.

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