Hearing Loss After Viral Infection

Hearing Loss After Viral Infection

The human ear is truly a marvel of nature. Its complex structure allows us to hear sounds that enhance our lives. And if hearing loss occurs, it can completely ruin a person's life.

Hearing loss due to viral infection is a possibility and there are many people suffer from it. However, not all viral infections lead to hearing loss. Only certain viral infections cause hearing loss, especially those of the ear. Before we understand hearing loss due to viral infection, let us look at the structure of the human ear.

There are three parts to the human ear:

  • The first part is the visible component or outer ear including the ear canals which lead to the head. The external parts that are visible are collectors or receptors of sound waves which are channeled through the canals to a thin membrane known as the eardrum.
  • Sound waves induce vibrations in the eardrum which is transferred to the middle ear. The middle ear comprises three minute bones called ossicles, the smallest bones in the human body. The ossicles further amplify the vibrations and convey these amplified vibrations to the inner ear.
  • In the inner ear is an arrangement that looks like a snail's shell called the cochlea.  The cochlea is filled with fluid and has tiny hair cells. The amplified vibrations from the ossicles pass into the cochlea and stimulate the fluid which transfers the movement to the hair cells. These movements generate an electrical signal which is conveyed through the auditory nerve to the brain.

There are generally three types of hearing losses:

  • Conductive hearing loss relates to problems in the middle ear. These are generally caused because of a mechanical problem. This could be a perforation in the eardrum, fluid collection in the ear or some damage to the three bones in the middle ear which perform the role of amplifying the sound waves. Hearing loss related to conductive reasons can usually be corrected with surgery.
  • Sensory neural hearing loss relates to damage in the inner year or the auditory nerve which conveys auditory signals to the brain. This type of hearing loss is generally irreversible and would necessitate the use of a hearing aid. Such sensory neural hearing loss is often due to a blockage in blood supply or 'mini stroke' occasioned by a viral infection.
  • Mixed hearing loss is a combination of the above with the conductive element having the ability to be repaired.
It is reasonable to conclude that a viral infection could result in permanent hearing loss.

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Hearing Loss After Viral Infection