Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Can strep throat cause permanent hearing damage?"
I am an older woman whose hearing has always been better-than-average. Recently, though, I had a bout of strep throat. At the time, I thought my ears were just stopped up, but my hearing still hasn't returned to normal. Is it possible the strep throat infection gave me permanent hearing loss?
That is most unfortunate that you had to have a bout of strep throat, and also that your hearing is still bothering you after this episode. On the bright side, it is unlikely that strep throat would cause permanent hearing loss, however, as it does not commonly affect the ears in any way other than secondarily. What is common, however, is for there to be inflammation in the back of the throat (obviously!), which is right where your eustachian tubes empty into the throat. The eustachian tubes are the connection between the ears and the rest of your upper aerodigestive tract. The inner lining of your ears is made of mucous tissue similar to the rest of your mouth and throat, which means that it is constantly making mucous secretions. These secretions generally drain without problem through the eustachian tube and into your throat, keeping you hearing well. If your eustachian tube becomes inflamed, the tube can swell and stop draining adequately, leaving fluid behind your ear drum (which can readily be seen by your doctor during an otoscopic exam). This fluid will impair your hearing until the inflammation goes down and the fluid can drain normally. An ear-nose-and-throat surgeon would be able to do a quick examination to confirm that there is nothing more serious going on, and I would recommend speaking with one if your symptoms persist.
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