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Ear infections are a potential complication of wearing hearing aids due to the way these hearing devices can cause moisture and bacteria to get trapped in the ear. However, knowing the signs of ear infections and how to clean hearing aids properly and regularly can help prevent further hearing loss.

What Are the Signs of an Ear Infection?

An ear infection can be acute or chronic. Acute ear infections are isolated with pain occurring suddenly. A chronic ear infection is long-lasting or recurring. According to the National Library of Medicine (NLM), symptoms of a chronic ear infection are usually less severe than symptoms of an acute infection.

Signs of an ear infection include:

  • Ear pain or pressure in the ear
  • Feeling of fullness in the ear
  • Low-grade fever
  • Pus-like drainage from the ear
  • Nasal congestion
  • Cough
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling ill
  • Hearing loss

Types of Ear Infections

There are two main types of ear infections: a middle ear infection and an outer ear infection.

With a middle ear infection, fluid is trapped behind the eardrum. The middle ear is the space behind the eardrum that contains the small, vibrating bones of the ear called ossicles. These types of ear infections usually occur due to congestion. A sinus or throat infection may also cause a middle ear infection.

An outer ear infection is also commonly known as “swimmer’s ear.” This type of ear infection occurs when water is trapped in the ear to cause bacteria growth. The outer ear begins at the entrance of the ear canal and extends up to the eardrum.

How to Reduce the Risk of Ear Infections With Hearing Aids

Hearing aids themselves do not directly cause ear infections, though wearing them consistently and not cleaning them properly can lead to frequent infections.

An effective way to reduce the risk of ear infections with hearing aids is to maintain a regular cleaning routine. In addition to helping reduce the risk of infection, a hearing aid cleaning routine could extend the lifespan of these devices and lead to clearer, better hearing.

Steps to take to prevent ear infections with hearing aids include:

  • Establishing a regular cleaning routine.
  • Learning how to clean hearing aids properly. An audiologist can provide education on how to properly clean hearing aids.
  • Investing in proper hearing aid cleaning tools.
  • Storing hearing aids in a safe, dry place where they are not exposed to humidity, such as in a car or bathroom. A hearing aid humidifier can help protect hearing aids from sweat or in humid climates.
  • Having hearing aids professionally cleaned at least every six months.
  • Making sure hearing aids fit properly, which can help reduce discomfort, irritation, and inflammation that may contribute to an ear infection.

Treating Ear Infections

Treatment for an ear infection usually depends on its root cause and type.

According to the CDC, a middle ear infection will usually clear on its own without treatment. However, middle ear infections that are severe or that last longer than two to three days may require treatment with antibiotics. Over-the-counter pain relievers, decongestants, nasal steroids, and antihistamines are other possible treatments for a middle ear infection.

Treatment for an outer ear infection usually begins with a professional cleaning by an audiologist, followed by the application of antibacterial or anti-inflammatory medications to the affected ear. In severe cases, surgery may be required to remove the infection and repair the eardrum and/or ​​the small bones in the middle ear.

An audiologist can perform an examination and discuss all available treatment options for an ear infection.

Sonora Hearing Care is devoted to working with you to reduce your risk for ear infections and other hearing-related health conditions. Contact us today at (520) 881-8740 to schedule a consultation and to learn more about our many available hearing services.