Ear or head injury and hearing loss

An injury to the ear may cause temporary or permanent hearing loss. The structures of the ear are delicate and can be injured by a variety of forces, including:

  • A blow, cut, or other trauma to the ear or ear canal. This may cause bleeding and infection, which can result in temporary hearing loss. A trauma may also damage the inner ear or cochlea, which can result in permanent hearing loss.
  • Strenuous coughing, sneezing, or nose-blowing, or a strenuous bowel movement.
  • A sudden, dramatic change in air pressure, such as occurs in scuba diving or air travel. This may put too much stress on the eardrum or other middle ear structures, resulting in bleeding or fluid imbalance in the middle and inner ear. This type of injury is called barotrauma.
  • A blow to the head. A blow may change the position (dislocation) of the three bones of the middle ear (ossicle dislocation), resulting in sound not being sent to the inner ear. A head injury may also cause a ruptured eardrum (tympanic membrane perforation). Or a forceful blow to the head may damage the delicate nerves in the cochlea or in the brain.
  • A sudden, extremely loud noise (such as an explosion, gunshot, or firecracker), which can damage any of the structures in the ear, causing immediate and permanent hearing loss. This is called acoustic trauma.

Injuries to the ear sometimes heal on their own, and sometimes surgery can repair the damage. In both cases, your hearing may return. However, severe injuries may cause permanent damage in your ear, resulting in permanent hearing loss.

Last Updated: April 22, 2009

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