Often when a person experiences recurrent middle ear infections, they may experience a mild hearing loss. Since the middle ear or Eustachian Tube (tube that connects the ear with the nose and throat), is filled with fluid from the ear infection, the sound going through the middle ear to the inner ear is dampened. This leads to a low frequency conductive (low tone, middle ear) hearing loss making it slightly more difficult to hear many people talking at one, hearing clearly when there is noise or when the speaker is softly spoken or far away. Ear infections (particularly if they are chronic and recurrent) may be controlled at times by the use of antibiotics or surgery (drainage or insertion of draining tubes or grommets). An FM system may assist children with hearing in the classroom. If the ear infections resolve but the hearing loss remains (due to damage to the middle ear structures), a bone anchored hearing aid may be prescribed.
So which professionals should you consult if you or your child experiences recurrent ear infections:
GP: to confirm the presence of an ear infection and possibly prescribe antibiotics or make a referral to an ENT (Otolaryngologist).
ENT: if grommets are required, if other middle ear procedures are required and for monitoring and review of recurrent middle ear infections.
Audiologist: for a hearing evaluation to determine if there is a hearing loss, if grommets are patent (open and able to drain adequately), hearing aid evaluation and for ongoing hearing review.
Speech Pathologist (SLP): children who experience middle ear infections often have delayed speech and language development and thus consultation with a SLP may be beneficial.