Leadership Team

  • Visualizing Acute Otitis Media with Non-Invasive OtoSight Technology

    In this White Paper titled Visualizing Acute Otitis Media with Non-Invasive OtoSight Technology: Advanced OCT-Based Imaging of the Tympanic Membrane and Middle Ear Effusion Changes across Course of Treatment, Michael A. Novak MD (Carle Foundation Hospital, Department of Otolaryngology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Carle-Illinois College of Medicine, Urbana, Illinois, United States) presents a longitudinal analysis demonstrating how the middle ear scan helps to determine the presence or absence of fluid in the middle ear, characterize the type of fluid, visualize the fluid’s density, and can do all of this even in the presence of significant wax.

    Download the White Paper


  • Interview with Dr. Michael Novak

    PhotoniCare sits down with Dr. Michael Novak, an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor from Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, Illinois, to chat about middle ear questions commonly asked in an ENT’s office.

    Dr. Novak, before we dig into our questions, can you help us to define otitis media?
    Otitis media, or middle ear infection, refers to inflammation, infection or fluid under the eardrum. Middle ear infections are most common in children.

    Why do children get more ear infections when compared to adults?
    Most ear problems stem from the eustachian tubes. Eustachian tubes are the tubes that connect the middle ears to the back of the nose. The tubes help the ears drain fluid and they also keep air pressure in the ears at the right level. Children are prone to more ear infections because this area within their ear is quite small/narrow compared to adults. Anything that makes the nose stuffy has the tendency to the block eustachian tubes underneath the ear drum. Swelling from colds or allergies can keep the eustachian tubes from opening and this leads to pressure changes and the collection of fluid in the middle ear. This pressure and fluid will cause pain and sometimes the fluid can lead to an infection. Therefore when kids get a cold, and the cold runs its course (over about 5-7 days), it’s usually about another 10-14 days after that the eustachian tubes start to clear and things clear up on their own.

    Are there home remedies for ear infections?
    Many primary and specialty care physicians push home remedies to avoid over-prescription of antibiotics. The old adage says “if a doctor treats you you’ll get better in one week, and if they don’t you’ll get better in seven days”.  So we want to know, who has lingering problems? Who needs the treatment? That should be our primary focus. For home treatments – most are harmless and people can easily treat a cold or allergy with symptomatic treatments like over-the-counter antihistamines, decongestants, nose sprays, and such. Anything that makes the nose stuffy has the tendency to block the eustachian tubes underneath the ear drum. Treatments like holding your nose and gently popping your ears can provide relief and the more you do it the faster your ears may clear. Babies and young children typically cannot pop their ears, but popping may happen if they suck on a bottle or pacifier. Another home remedy is lukewarm salt water inserted into the nose and pulled out by hand bulb syringe.

    How many ear infections must one have before tubes are considered as a form of treatment?
    Standard guidelines say four acute ear infections over a six month period, or fluid that persists more than three months. However, a lot of factors are considered when recommending ear tubes. The time of year (persistent ear infections in the summer or fall months as opposed to winter months) as well as issues that may be impairing the child’s hearing and speech development. Physicians will most likely be less patient with standard guidelines especially with children that have speech delays due persistent ear infections.

    I am noticing it is taking my daughter longer for speech development in comparison to her older siblings that didn’t suffer as badly from multiple ear infections. Should I be concerned about speech and language delays? Or potential hearing loss? What can we do?
    Speech delay for many people is ill-defined. Children will develop at their own rate. However, the American Speech-Language Hearing Association offers charts that can tell you when most children who speak only one language will reach certain milestones. Not being able to master one skill in the age range does not mean that your child has speech and language delays. Although you may want to seek the guidance of your physician if you answer “no” for your child for most of the skills in the charts.

    I know I’m not supposed to use cotton swabs to clean out my ears – so then what do I use instead?
    Wax, or cerumen, is a good thing and harmless but occasionally it blocks up everything and can make it hard to hear or even for the physician to capture an adequate image inside the ear. Cotton swabs aren’t terrible when used on the outside opening of the ear (as long as you’re super cautious). Wax handling can be taken care of at home with one of the over-the-counter ear wax softening or ear irrigation kits. Doctors may also suggest patients try a home remedy of a few drops of baby oil in each ear, then wait 3-7 days to allow the wax to soften. At that point, the individual should get into the bathtub (because the next step may get a little messy). Fill a hand bulb syringe with half lukewarm water and half hydrogen peroxide and gently flush out each ear with this mixture. It makes a mess, but it’s the safest way to conduct this home remedy. For a really waxy kid, the buildup will continue to occur, so repeat this method every few months. If you really can’t get the ear(s) cleaned out then it can be done in a physician’s office. Certain groups of patients, such as those with hearing aids, will often have earwax buildup and should be routinely evaluated for cerumen impaction. The same goes for young children and cognitively impaired adults, who may be unable to express symptoms of cerumen impaction.

    What made you want to become an otolaryngologist? Specifically, an Otologist specializing in ear disorders and surgery?
    When I was in medical school I found that I really liked anatomy. I especially liked head and neck anatomy as well as head and neck surgery. It’s complex and I liked the challenge. From there I sub-specialized in the ears only. This specialization is even harder than just ear, nose, and throat (ENT). Ears are very small and very complex. There is a huge amount that we don’t know about hearing, hearing loss, and treatments. I find it all to be very challenging but the surgery, although often difficult, is very rewarding. I had a couple of mentors in medical school that were wonderful people and teachers that were talented in the art of patient care. They never forgot what they were there for – to take care of people. In my role I work with good people. We work as a team which makes a huge impact on the lives of both adults and children by improving their hearing. It has turned out to be a challenging and rewarding field.

    I’m sure you are quite busy, but what do you do for fun?
    I’m a huge Cubs fan! I have 7 grandchildren, 5 of which live close by. I enjoy reading and I also enjoy playing golf and tennis and going hiking.

    Why do we want the OtoSight Middle Ear Scope?
    Diagnosing an ear infection in children can be difficult. Most people can recognize that because a child becomes upset and develops a fever. But realistically it can be very difficult to know if there is fluid underneath the eardrum. Most diagnosis of ear infections are at the primary level, emergency department, or convenient care. So if we can have an objective measure like the OtoSight Middle Ear Scope to tell if you have fluid or not – it is huge! It helps us to better understand if there is fluid and whether or not we should treat. It’s a huge benefit to children and their families, not to mention the cost to society in general. This device will revolutionize how we diagnose ear infections. One of these days it will be the standard in all offices and people will feel lost without it.


  • 10 Celebrities and Famous People with Hearing and Ear Issues

    Hearing loss can affect anyone at any age and according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). The NIDCD reports that approximately 15% of American adults (or 37.5 million) aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing. Many celebrities and famous individuals from across the country have used their status as a platform to share their hearing issues and rally for others to take ear health seriously. The following are 10 individuals that you may not have known that struggle with hearing impairments.

    • Ludwig van Beethoven: One of the most famous composers of all time also happened to be deaf. Beethoven taught himself to understand the sounds of the piano by clenching a stick in his teeth and holding it against the keyboard. Although the cause of Beethoven’s hearing loss is unknown, it is thought to have been the result of an illness, lead poisoning, or a lesion of the inner ear.
    • Halle Berry: An abusive relationship occurring over 20 years ago left actress Halle Berry with an 80% hearing loss in her left ear. Her then boyfriend repeatedly struck her ear, causing her to have life-long hearing loss.
    • Eric Clapton: Tinnitus is the cause of Eric Clapton’s hearing loss. This guitar legend suffers from ringing in his ear, possibly caused by noise-induced hearing loss.
    • Bill Clinton: Former President Bill Clinton was diagnosed with high-frequency hearing deficiency. This is the most common form of hearing loss, which makes it nearly impossible for the individual to distinguish sounds in noisy rooms and crowded events, especially those with a lot of background noise. Clinton now uses two in-ear canal hearing aids to help with his hearing trouble.
    • Stephen Colbert: Stephen Colbert had a tumor in his right ear as a child. To safely remove the tumor, Colbert’s doctors also had to remove his eardrum. This has left him deaf in his right ear.
    • Derrick Coleman: Derrick Coleman is the first deaf offensive player in the National Football League. He has played football in high school, in college for UCLA, and then for the Seattle Seahawks. Coleman’s hearing loss was diagnosed at only three years old and he wears hearing aids in both ears. He learned to read lips in order to keep up with plays on the field.
    • Lou Ferrigno: The Incredible Hulk lost 75% of his hearing at age three due to an ear infection. Lou Ferrigno has worn hearing aids since the age of four.
    • Huey Lewis: Huey Lewis and the News recently canceled all of their remaining 2018 tour dates due to Lewis’s recent hearing loss. The cause? Doctors say it may be attributable to Meniere’s Disease. What is Meniere’s Disease? It’s an inner ear disorder that can cause vertigo, tinnitus, and other hearing problems.
    • William Shatner: Best known for his role in Star Trek, William Shatner suffers from tinnitus. He’s an advocate for the American Tinnitus Association and has been quite outspoken for the negative effects he’s endured from his hearing disorder.
    • Rob Lowe: Rob Lowe was just a baby when he lost his hearing. An undiagnosed case of the mumps left him completely deaf in his right ear.

    If you suffer from hearing loss or have questions about your hearing health visit the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders for more information.


  • What is an Otolaryngologist and when should I see one?

    This week on the #EnginEarGuys blog we talk about otolaryngology – one of the oldest medical specialties in the United States. We also share when it is important to see one, especially as it relates to dealing with persistent ear infections.

    Otolaryngology (pronounced oh/toe/lair/in/goll/oh/jee) is the specific medical and surgical treatment and management of patients that struggle with ear, nose, throat and related disorders of the head and neck. We often refer to otolaryngologists as ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat) doctors because it’s easier to say than otolaryngologist. They treat children and adults with a wide range of disorders, including ear disease (like otitis media or middle ear infections), hearing loss, nasal and sinus problems, throat problems, and tumors in the head and neck.

    Physicians that go on to become ENT specialists complete upwards of six years of specialized surgical training beyond medical school. To qualify for certification by the American Board of Otolaryngology, an applicant must first complete college and medical school, and have at least five years of ENT specialty training after that. Then one must successfully pass the American Board of Otolaryngology license exam, followed by fellowship for more extensive training in one of eight subspecialty areas. These areas include allergy, facial plastic and reconstructive surgery, head and neck, laryngology (throat), otology/neurology (ears, balance, and tinnitus), pediatric otolaryngology, rhinology (nose), and sleep disorders.  

    PhotoniCare works with a number ENT specialists, specifically pediatric ENTs, on a variety of our research and development efforts. Children are more prone to ear infections than adults. Therefore we work with pediatric ENTs to study and better develop how our technology can make a more positive impact on diagnosis and treatment of ear infections.

    Patients are often referred to an ENT specialist in order to treat disorders of the ears, nose, throat, and related structures of the head and neck. Different than other physicians, these specialists are trained in both medicine and surgery. Patients commonly referred to ENTs include those that suffer from recurring ear infections and may be candidates for ear ventilation tube surgery. An ear tube is used most often to provide long-term drainage and ventilation to middle ears that have had persistent fluid buildup, chronic middle ear infections, or frequent infections.


  • ‘Tis the Season for Otitis Media

    For some children, ear infections seem unavoidable.  With the cold and flu season upon us, otitis media (commonly known as middle ear infection) becomes a real possibility. It’s good to know the symptoms and treatments before you or a family member come down with this common infection.

    • What is a middle ear infection (otitis media)?A middle ear infection occurs behind the eardrum and can be caused by either bacteria or viruses. It can be painful because of the buildup of fluid and pressure in the middle ear, as well as inflammation of the middle ear cavity and the eardrum itself.
    • Understanding the symptomsWhen someone suffers from a middle ear infection, they can experience ear pain, irritability, fever, or have trouble sleeping and/or hearing. If a child has an infection, but may not be old enough to verbalize it, they may tug on their ear, or become uncharacteristically fussy or grumpy.
    • Treatment for otitis media (for adults or children over the age of 6 months)In most cases, a middle ear infection will clear up on its own. Managing the pain and making sure it doesn’t become more serious becomes the priority. Most pain can be managed with a warm, moist washcloth held to the ear and age appropriate pain medication. A healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics for a bacterial infection if symptoms last longer than 48 hours, or if the child is under the age of 6 months.  It is important to distinguish between a bacterial and viral infection, as only bacterial infections should and can be treated with antibiotics.
    • When to visit a healthcare provider 
      If the ear pain becomes severe, or lasts longer than 48 hours, a visit to the healthcare provider is recommended. If it is suspected that a child under the age of 6 months old suffers from otitis media, call your doctor right away.
    • How does a middle ear infection occurMost middle ear infections are caused by either bacteria or viruses. A common cold, the flu, or allergy symptoms that cause congestion and swelling of the nasal passages, throat, and eustachian tubes can sometimes lead to an  infection. The eustachian tube controls the pressure in the middle ear, like when your ears “pop” on an airplane or scuba diving. One of the reasons ear infections are common in children is because their eustachian tubes are smaller and less pitched  than they are in adults. This makes it harder for fluid to be able to drain. In children, the eustachian tubes can more easily become blocked, which as a result, allows the fluid to build up and the ear infection to thrive.


  • PhotoniCare Marks Five Years

    Wow! Five years! It’s been an incredible ride for everyone involved in PhotoniCare. We are a passionate team and we rely on each other, our partners, advisors, investors, clinicians, and the community to help bring our technology to market. Thank you for making the past five years so great!

    Check out our 5 years in review infographic

    Our company was founded in 2013, borne out of Dr. Stephen Boppart’s Biophotonics Imaging Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). During the first two years of our existence, we were able to leverage resources available through UIUC and the NSF I-Corps program (both the Site program in Illinois, as well as the National I-Corps program) to further develop our technology and refine the market opportunity.

    In early 2016, we hired our first full time non-founder employee and leveraged a $1.6 million NIH SBIR Direct-to-Phase II Grant, as well as funds raised from a friends and family financing round, to step out of the academic lab and into our new space located within UIUC’s Enterprise Works Incubator.

    2017 was spent in intense product development and refinement. We also completed a 100 patient clinical study and continued to grow our team with the addition of five full time employees. The team also celebrated winning the Entrepreneurial Excellence Award as part of the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation’s Innovation Celebration.

    This past year has been just as exciting, with new opportunities to grow PhotoniCare through participation in the MedTech accelerator program, winning the 2018 SPIE Startup Challenge, and the award of a $2 million NIH SBIR to fund ongoing studies and research.

    We are proud to cross the five year mark and eager to kick off 2019, which is poised to be an exciting year for the PhotoniCare Team as we plan to launch our first product, the TOMi Scope [OtoSight Middle Ear Scope].


  • Earwax has met its match with the OtoSight Middle Ear Scope

    Ear infections are sometimes difficult to diagnose using traditional tools, which cannot see through or around a buildup of earwax. However, impacted earwax isn’t as much of an issue when using the OtoSight Middle Ear Scope to directly visualize fluid in the middle ear. In this blog, we share how earwax has met its match with the OtoSight Middle Ear Scope.

    What is earwax and why can too much of it become an issue?
    Earwax can be found in the outer ear canal. The ear canal is the tube that runs from your ear lobe to your eardrum. The skin in the ear canal has special glands that produce cerumen, which is the medical term for earwax. Once the glands produce earwax, it makes its way along the ear canal to the opening of the ear. For some people this is the end of the journey for their earwax because it falls out when the outer ear is cleaned. However, some individuals produce an above-average amount of earwax. How much earwax is produced, and what kind is produced (“wet” or “dry”) can be hereditary. For some peoples, their earwax makes its way down the ear canal and picks up dead skin cells along the way. The result is a buildup of earwax in the ear canal, which sometimes becomes hard and less mobile. An accumulation of earwax can cause symptoms like hearing loss (especially when the canal is completely clogged) and prevent a clinician from conducting a full and complete ear exam. 

    How do healthcare providers currently deal with earwax obstructions when trying to assess possible middle ear infections?
    Different methods for earwax removal are used depending on a patient’s complications. Oftentimes earwax can be removed with special ear drops or an in-office procedure by a healthcare provider. However, when a child or infant patient presents with impacted (clogged) earwax and is fussy or unwilling to have their ears examined, a healthcare provider is less likely to be able to accurately visualize the surface of the eardrum using an otoscope. According to this article published in April 2000 by American Family Physician, “Adequate visualization of the tympanic membrane [eardrum] is often impaired by low light output from old otoscope bulbs and blockage of the ear canal by cerumen”. Therefore, a complete and accurate ear exam is often difficult to conduct due to the earwax blockage.

    What can the OtoSight Middle Ear Scope do to help healthcare providers visualize the middle ear space despite earwax blockage?
    The OtoSight Middle Ear Scope is the first otoscope to provide non-invasive imaging of the eardrum and underlying middle ear. Using a novel application of Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), OtoSight Middle Ear Scope is able to directly visualize fluid in the middle ear, a key determinant when following AAP Guidelines for diagnosing middle ear infections, particularly Acute Otitis Media (AOM). Additionally, unlike the traditional otoscope, the OtoSight Middle Ear Scope can capture images even with the presence of significant earwax build-up in the ear canal. The OtoSight Middle Ear Scope only needs a second or two to generate our patented middle ear scan technology to learn what’s going on in the middle ear, where the infections live! 

    A recent clinical study conducted by PhotoniCare showed that a representative patient population had an average of ~60% occlusion of the eardrum due to earwax–for standard diagnostic tools that leaves very little of the eardrum to be examined! The OtoSight Middle Ear Scope, on the other hand, helps to determine the presence or absence of fluid in the middle ear, characterize the type of fluid, visualize the fluid’s density, and do all of this even in the presence of significant wax.


  • What a Middle Ear Infection Looks Like

    Despite its small size, the ear is a very complicated organ. The three main parts of the ear are known as the inner, middle, and outer ear. PhotoniCare focus their research and work on the middle ear. The middle ear is the area located directly behind the eardrum.

    Most middle ear infections are caused by either bacteria or viruses. A common cold, the flu, or allergy symptoms that cause congestion and swelling of the nasal passages, throat, and eustachian tubes can sometimes lead to an infection. Anything that makes the nose stuffy has a tendency to cause swelling and blockage of the eustachian tubes. Swelling from colds or allergies can keep the eustachian tubes from opening and this leads to pressure changes and the accumulation of fluid in the middle ear. This pressure and fluid will cause pain and sometimes persistent fluid can lead to an infection.

    When a healthcare provider checks you or your child for an ear infection, they will typically use an instrument called an otoscope. An otoscope is basically a pen light attached to a magnifying glass, and this simple device has been used in medicine for the past 150 years. The otoscope comes with several pointed tips called specula. A speculum is chosen based on the size of the patient’s ear opening. The healthcare provider will gently insert the speculum into the ear canal to look at the surface of the eardrum. The otoscope will allow the provider to look at the surface of the eardrum.

    Healthy Ear
    A healthy eardrum looks pinkish-gray.
    (Photo credit: WebMD
    Infected Middle Ear
    An infection of the middle ear, or an ear with otitis media, looks red, bulging, and there may be clear, yellow, or even greenish hued drainage.
    (Photo credit: The University of Texas McGovern Medical School)

    Note: These are ideal, textbook images of the surface of the eardrum that you or your family healthcare provider rarely see because there may be wax blocking his/her view, or the patient may be uncooperative, which prevents proper positioning of the otoscope. These real-life impediments are what makes diagnosing AOM so difficult.

    When to Visit Your Healthcare Provider
    Ear pain and concerns about hearing are one of the most common reasons parents take their children to the doctor. If you suspect that your child has an ear infection, then the #EnginEarGuys recommend you contact your healthcare provider. A provider will examine your child’s ear for an infection or if there is another issue causing your child’s symptoms and pain. If the provider does suspect an ear infection, antibiotics may or may not  be recommended. 

    Generally speaking, an ear infection has the potential to resolve itself without antibiotic treatment. In the case of a severe middle ear infection with infected fluid in the middle ear, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the physician prescribe antibiotics. However, the guidelines recommend the “watchful waiting” approach for non-severe middle ear infections in children over the age of two. The overall goal is to reduce over-prescription of antibiotics.


  • 4 Foods that Promote Ear Health

    Food is vitally important to us. It nourishes our bodies, gives us energy, and even has the ability to improve our moods. Certain foods can also be important to certain parts of our bodies. Take carrots for instance. Not only are they a perfect mid-afternoon snack, or complementary side dish to an entrée, carrots are also used to get small amounts of Vitamin A, which is good for your eyesight. Knowing this, it makes one wonder, what kind of food may be good for ear health and a person’s hearing? What food should a person include in their diet to maintain healthy ears?


    Bananas have always been known for a good source of potassium and many runners have bananas in their daily diets to fight cramping of the muscles. But did you know that bananas can also help protect against hearing loss? Bananas contain magnesium. Magnesium is known to help expand the blood vessels and extend circulation (even all the way in your inner ear). In addition to increasing blood flow, it also controls the release of glutamate. Glutamate is a major contributor of noise-induced hearing loss, so when controlled effectively, a person is significantly less likely to have his or her hearing altered. The ease of including bananas in your everyday diet is a plus as well. Whether it is breakfast on the go, a snack to get you through the day, or sliced up in a smoothie, there are so many ways to incorporate bananas and keep hearing loss at bay.


    Everyone knows that a person’s body tends to break down the older he or she gets – and hearing is no exception. That is where salmon comes in! Salmon is good for your ears, and specifically, hearing. Salmon, sardines, and other similar fish contain omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are known for having the ability to reduce the risk of age-dependent hearing loss. While it helps slow age-related hearing loss, it does not mean that you have to wait until a certain age before taking action. Starting out eating two servings of salmon per week when you are young will help you begin taking care of your ears far before any problems arise. There is nothing wrong with being proactive! There is only one problem with salmon being good for a person’s ear health. Not everyone likes fish! So, if a person does not like fish, is he or she just destined to experience age-related hearing loss? Thankfully, that is not the case.


    In a study released in 2007, it was found that folic acid was also extremely helpful in delaying hearing loss. One such food that is full of folic acid is broccoli. In addition to the folic acid, broccoli also contains nutrients such as Vitamin K, Vitamin C, and fiber. This trio of nutrients is incredibly helpful in reducing damage to the delicate and sensitive tissues in a person’s ear. Whether ingested raw, steamed, or grilled, a good amount of broccoli in a person’s diet will be sure to protect his or her hearing much longer than an average person’s.


    Some of you have been reading this article grumbling about all these healthy foods and the health-nuts that must be writing this…well, never fear! Dark chocolate has been known to aid in the prevention of hearing loss, as well! One of the main contributors to age-related hearing loss is a zinc deficiency. That’s where dark chocolate comes in. A treat that is high in zinc, eating a square of dark chocolate a day can keep a person hearing better than his or her peers well into old age.

    So, if you are keeping track, the #EnginEarGuys have offered up a nice meal plan of ear-health-related foods: bananas to start the day, a serving or two of salmon per week, a hearty side of broccoli for lunch or dinner, and a square of dark chocolate to end the meal. It is no wonder why food is so important for us. Along with accomplishing the obvious of keeping us fed, it also helps our energy, mood, immune system, and countless other important functions throughout our body. Hearing is no exception to this! It is never too early to begin protecting yourself from hearing loss. By incorporating these four foods into your diet, you can rest assured knowing you are taking proper care of your ear health.


  • Can Ear Infections Cause Hearing Loss?

    Hearing loss may occur due to injury, aging, noise exposure, and/or heredity. But can ear infections also contribute to hearing loss? That is not a simple question to answer!

    Most middle ear infections are caused by either bacteria or viruses. A common cold, the flu, or allergy symptoms that cause congestion and swelling of the nasal passages, throat, and eustachian tubes can sometimes lead to an infection. Anything that makes the nose stuffy has a tendency to cause swelling and blockage of the eustachian tubes. Swelling from colds or allergies can keep the eustachian tubes from opening and this leads to pressure changes and the accumulation of fluid in the middle ear. This pressure and fluid will cause pain and sometimes persistent fluid can lead to an infection, or even temporary hearing loss.

    When hearing loss occurs as the result of an ear infection, it is referred to as conductive hearing loss. It happens when an obstruction appears in the middle ear, not allowing sounds to stimulate  the auditory nerve. Conductive hearing loss affects the outer or middle ear, rather than the auditory nerve. Since the auditory nerve is unaffected, this hearing loss is often temporary and hearing returns after treatment is completed. Treatment may include antibiotics or even tubes within the ear if the patient has a history of ear infections.

    While conductive hearing loss seems fairly mild and temporary, there are other situations caused by ear infections that can be more serious in nature and have a long-term impact on a person’s hearing. When someone develops an ear infection, there is typically a buildup of fluid in the middle ear. If that fluid continues to build up, the pressure can potentially rupture the eardrum.

    Another possible outcome of an ear infection is Tympanosclerosis. Tympanosclerosis, the thickening or scarring of the tympanic membrane, usually occurs when the patient has a history of recurring ear infections. This will affect the mobility of the eardrum and will negatively impact hearing. While it is possible to have hearing return to normal after treatment, there is still a risk of permanent hearing issues. When this happens, hearing aids may be the only option.

    While temporary hearing loss during an ear infection is not all that uncommon, it can still be unsettling. It is also important to pay close attention to infants and toddlers who may suffer from chronic ear infections since this is the age where speech and language hits a crucial learning point. Any repeated or temporary hearing loss may have a long-term negative impact.

    In summary, the question of whether ear infections have the ability to cause hearing loss is a complicated one to answer. Yes, almost all cases have the potential to suffer from temporary hearing loss; however, rarely, if ever, is it a permanent change. More often than not, the hearing will gradually return  as the infection runs its course.